US billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates have added $70m (£53m) of funding for development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines that will be widely-accessible to the poor and low-income countries.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, started by the Microsoft co-founder and his wife, former Microsoft general manager, has already given over £300m in the fight against COVID-19.
It will donate another $50m to COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), led by the GAVI vaccine alliance.
As well as boasting the “largest and most diverse portfolio of COVID-19 vaccine candidates”, the AMC is focused on ensuring fair distribution — especially to low-income countries — once a vaccine becomes licensed.
The other $20m will go to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which has invested $23.7m in six different ARS-CoV-2 vaccines so far, the foundation said.
“We have to ensure that everyone gets equal access to tests, drugs, and vaccines when they are available — no matter where you live in the world,” Melinda Gates said in a statement.
“Our pledge today means we are getting closer to having the resources needed to help the world fight this virus.”
The foundation has also worked with the CEPI and GAVI — along with the World Health Organisation and others — to form the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is aimed at speeding up development, production and fair access to tests, treatments and vaccines.
Limited doses of a coronavirus vaccine could be available by the end of the year. Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) recently announced that its vaccine could be more than 90% effective, based on its study of over 43,500 people.
Meanwhile, early results from Russia’s Sputnik trials suggests it could be as much as 92% effective. However, experts say the trials are so far too small to be taken as proof.
The Gates Foundation said it hopes international donors will follow its lead and pledge more to efforts to fight the pandemic.
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