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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (AP)
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (AP)

WHO says $4.3 bn urgently needed for vaccine sharing scheme

WHO chief fears the underprivileged might not be able to access the coronavirus vaccines in an equitable manner

There is a risk that the poor and vulnerable will be trampled on in the stampede for coronavirus vaccines, the head of the World Health Organization said on Monday, adding that $4.3 billion was needed urgently for a world vaccine-sharing scheme.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was speaking at a virtual briefing in Geneva.

Dozens of countries have signed up to the global vaccine plan known as COVAX, which was set up by the WHO and the GAVI vaccine group to provide vaccine doses for countries that could not otherwise afford them.

It has so far raised $5 billion, including more than 500 million euros ($600 million) from Germany.

G20 nations must help plug a $4.5 billion funding gap for a WHO-led program to distribute coronavirus vaccines and pave the way for an end to the pandemic, a letter seen by AFP on Friday said.

The letter, sent ahead of this weekend's virtual G20 summit, was signed by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.

"A commitment by G20 leaders at the G20 Summit in Riyadh to invest substantially in the ACT-Accelerator's immediate funding gap of $4.5 billion will immediately save lives, lay the groundwork for mass procurement and delivery of COVID-19 tools around the world, and provide an exit strategy out of this global economic and human crisis," the letter dated November 16 said.

"With this funding, and a joint commitment to spend a proportion of future stimulus on the COVID-19 tools needed globally, the G20 will build a foundation to end the pandemic," added the letter addressed to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the current G20 president.

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