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UPDATE 2-UN's Guterres calls for $35 bln more for WHO COVID-19 programme

Thu, 10th Sep 2020 12:54

(Adds new fundraising goal in fifth paragraph)

ZURICH, Sept 10 (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary General
Antonio Guterres called for $35 billion more, including $15
billion in the next three months, for the World Health
Organization's (WHO) "ACT Accelerator" programme to back
vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against COVID-19.

Some $3 billion has been contributed so far, Guterres told
an online event on Thursday, calling it "seed funding" that was
less than 10% of what the WHO wants for the programme, formally
called Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

Financial support has, so far, lagged goals, as nations or
governments including the European Union, Britain, Japan and the
United States reach bilateral vaccine deals, prompting Guterres
and WHO General Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to plead to
nations to contribute.

"We now need $35 billion more to go from 'start up' to
'scale up and impact'," Guterres said at a meeting of a council
formed to help the ACT Accelerator gain traction. "There is real
urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of $15 billion
over the next three months, beginning immediately, we will lose
the window of opportunity."

The total sought, $38 billion, is more than the previously
published $31.3 billion ACT goal and includes for the first time
additional funding for health systems, in addition to vaccines,
therapeutics and diagnostics, a WHO spokeswoman said.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen pledged
backing, having in August already promised 400 million euros
($474 million) to the COVAX vaccine portion of the
programme.

"It is difficult to find a more compelling investment case.
The European Commission will remain deeply and entirely
committed to the success of the ACT Accelerator," von der Leyen
said. "The world needs it; we all need it."

Tedros renewed calls for scaling up COVID-19 clinical
trials. AstraZeneca this week suspended late-stage
trials on its potential vaccine after an illness in a
participant in Britain.

($1 = 0.8447 euros)

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields and Lisa
Shumaker)

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