Global leaders have pledged to accelerate cooperation on a coronavirus vaccine and to share research, treatments and medicines worldwide. But the United States did not take part in the World Health Organization initiative, as a sign of Donald Trump’s growing isolation on the global stage.
The cooperation effort, taken at a virtual meeting, was designed to show that rich countries will not keep up the research results of developing countries.
The meeting also represented a symbolic approval of the United Nations body in the face of Trump’s decision to suspend U.S. payments and condemn its leaders as subordinates of the Chinese Communist Party. China and the United States have accused each other of bullying and misinformation about the coronavirus epidemic, damaging efforts to ensure cooperation with the G20, the natural international institution for managing global health outside the United Nations.
In its place were an ad hoc group of 20 world leaders and global health personalities, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and American philanthropist Bill Gates. On 4 May, Britain will jointly cover a joint summit on the global response to coronavirus aimed at raising funds for research, treatments and tests on vaccines.
Macron said at the meeting: “We will now continue to mobilize all the G7 and G20 countries so that they can support this initiative. And I hope we will be able to reconcile around this common initiative both in China and in the United States, because it is a matter of saying that the fight against Covid-19 is a common human good and there should be no division to win this battle. “
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are facing a common threat that we can only defeat with a common approach. Experience has told us that even when the tools are available they have not been equally available to everyone. We cannot allow this to happen. “
More than 100 potential vaccines are under development, of which six are already undergoing clinical trials, according to Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi vaccine alliance, a public-private partnership that conducts immunization campaigns in poor countries.
Berkley said it is vital that the experience did not repeat itself in 2009, when the H1N1 vaccine did not reach developing countries until very late.
The United States mission to Geneva confirmed that there would be no official US participation, but said it was looking forward to the outcome of the WHO meeting.
Five commitments on the call have been agreed:
Provide access to new treatments, technologies and vaccines worldwide.
Commit to an unprecedented level of international research partnership and coordinate efforts to tackle the pandemic and reduce infections.
Make collective decisions on the response to the pandemic, recognizing that the spread of the virus in one country can affect all countries.
Learn from experience and adapt the global response.
Be accountable to the most vulnerable communities and the whole world.
The highly multilateral tone of the commitments contrasts with the immediate reaction of many countries to the outbreak, when countries banned the export of their medical equipment, closed borders and even tried to steal equipment from each other. The degree of cooperation in vaccine research was also somewhat irregular.
The meeting also agreed to appoint two new special envoys to guide global cooperation in vaccine research and to help ensure equal access to all successful vaccines. Sir Andrew Witty, former British chief of the world drug giant GSK, has been appointed along with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, president of Gavi.
Britain has been a major supporter of the global effort to find a coronavirus vaccine, providing £ 250 million for international disease research to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.