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UPDATE 2-EU offers 400 mln euros to WHO-led COVID-19 vaccine initiative

Mon, 31st Aug 2020 11:36

(adds details)

BRUSSELS, Aug 31 (Reuters) - The European Commission said it
would contribute 400 million euros ($476 million) to an
initiative led by the World Health Organization to buy COVID-19
vaccines, but did not clarify whether EU states would acquire
shots through the WHO scheme.

The initiative, dubbed COVAX, aims to purchase for all
countries in the world 2 billion doses of potential COVID-19
shots from several vaccine makers by the end of 2021.

The EU financial support will be provided through
guarantees, the Commission said. A spokeswoman for the EU
executive did not clarify how these guarantees would be offered
and why they were preferred to direct funding in cash.

"Today, the Commission is announcing a 400 million euro
contribution to COVAX for working together in purchasing future
vaccines to the benefit of low and middle income countries,"
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on
Monday.

The EU Commission is negotiating advance purchases of
COVID-19 vaccines with several drugmakers on behalf of the 27 EU
states and has said in past weeks EU governments cannot buy
vaccines through parallel procurement schemes.

Asked whether its guidance to EU states not to buy vaccines
through COVAX was now dropped, a commission spokeswoman declined
to elaborate.
"The detailed terms and conditions for the EU's participation
and contribution will be worked out in the coming days and
weeks," the Commission said.

The Commission added in a statement that it was ready,
together with EU states, "to put expertise and resources at work
within COVAX to accelerate and scale-up development and
manufacturing of a global supply of vaccines for citizens across
the world, in poor and rich countries."

Critics have said that by buying vaccines exclusively
through an EU scheme, the Commission was effectively undermining
the WHO-led initiative.

The Commission said it was committed to donating to
developing countries some of the vaccines it buys through its
procurement scheme.
($1 = 0.8396 euros)

(Reporting by Francesco Guarascio; Editing by John Chalmers,
Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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