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The multi-million dollar fundraiser is aimed at ensuring poorer countries gain access to COVID-19 treatment. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an online audience "vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic."
An international peace summit in Paris is expected to raise more than €425 million ($500 million) towards ensuring a fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines, organizers said Thursday.
As World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of "vaccine nationalism" prolonging the pandemic, equitable worldwide access to COVID-19 medication was the key objective at the Paris Peace Forum.
And Tedros said that if people in poorer countries can't get vaccinated, "the virus will continue to spread and the economic recovery globally will be delayed."
France is set to offer €100 million, Spain €50 million and the European Commission €100 million, specifically towards the so-called ACT-Accelerator, a WHO-led initiative to enable widespread availability of tests, treatments and vaccines.
The UK is expected to pledge £1 for every $4 raised by other participants, organizers of the event, launched in 2018 by French President Emmanuel Macron, said.
A substantial contribution was also anticipated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The WHO's Tedros, who spoke at the forum which was conducted online, also warned that people needed to remain on their guard as the world awaits a coronavirus vaccine.
WHO chief said social distancing and mask-wearing rules must be adhered to in order to help bring about an end to the pandemic.
"We may be tired of COVID-19, but it is not tired of us. European countries are struggling but the virus has not changed significantly, nor the measures to stop it," Tedros said.
"A vaccine is needed urgently, but we cannot wait for a vaccine and put all our eggs in one basket," he added.
Leaders taking part include French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva.
The conference comes just days after Germany's BioNTech and American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced highly promising results for their vaccine candidate, raising hopes globally. The two companies said on Monday that the potential vaccine was 90% effective against COVID-19, based on the initial results of its trials.
Russia issued similar preliminary results soon after for its Sputnik V vaccine candidate, with many more potential vaccines in testing phases around the world.
The coronavirus has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, while measures to try to contain it have upended economies across the globe. A spike in infections has seen fresh lockdown measures adopted by several governments in recent weeks, particularly in Europe, in a bid to stop the spread of the virus and protect healthcare systems.
jf, jsi/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)