WHO urges countries to gamble on shared vaccine search

The WHO on Thursday urged countries to invest billions of dollars in searching for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments — calling it a snip compared to the vast economic cost of the coronavirus crisis.

The World Health Organization insisted it was a smarter bet than the trillions of dollars being thrown at handling the consequences of the global pandemic.

The UN agency’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pleaded for investment into the WHO-led ACT-Accelerator programme, which aims to share global research and development, manufacturing and procurement in a bid to beat COVID-19.

Citing the International Monetary Fund’s predictions of the pandemic wiping out $12 trillion over two years, he urged countries to spend on shared solutions.

“It’s the best economic stimulus the world can invest in,” Tedros told a virtual press conference.

Funding the ACT-Accelerator, with $31.3 billion needed immediately, “will cost a tiny fraction in comparison to the alternative, where economies retract further and require continued fiscal stimulus packages”.

He said spreading the risk and sharing the reward is a better bet than the option some countries have taken, of going it alone in backing one of the dozens of vaccines in development.

“Picking individual winners is an expensive, risky gamble,” he said,

“The development of vaccines is long, complex, risky and expensive The vast majority of vaccines in early development fail.”

Tedros said multiple vaccine candidates, of different types, were needed in order to identify the best one. (AFP | Robin Millard)

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