Coronavirus virtual vaccine summit sees leaders pledge billions, but US skips it

World leaders held an online summit Monday aimed at galvanizing global efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. At the end of the three-hour meeting, billions of dollars had been pledged to fund the efforts.

Notably absent from the meeting were any officials from the Trump administration in the U.S., the country with the highest confirmed death toll from the new disease by far. Russia also declined to join the meeting.

Though they often take years to develop, President Trump has said the U.S. should have millions of doses of a vaccine available by the end of this year. He’s made that the mission of a White House effort officially dubbed Operation Warp Speed.

As CBS News correspondent Holly Williams reported, Monday’s virtual summit hosted by the European Union saw more than $8 billion pledged to fund the development of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, just short of the stated goal.

Japan pledged $800 million, Germany offered almost $575 million and Italy and Spain each said they would provide almost $110 million. President Emmanuel Macron called it “a race against time” to find a safe, successful vaccine, as he pledged about $546 million to the effort from France.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it wasn’t a competition between countries to develop a vaccine first, “but the most urgent shared endeavor of our lifetimes.”

Leaders from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Jordan, South Africa and Turkey also joined the summit, along with China’s ambassador to the European Union.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres lauded the fundraising effort as a good “down-payment” on the sum he expects will be required to immunize the world’s population, but he noted that, “to reach everyone, everywhere, we likely need five times that amount.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation alone committed $100 million to the pursuit.

“COVID-19 has reminded us that viruses don’t obey borders or customs laws. They don’t care about what nationality you are,” Melinda Gates told the other summit participants.

There are about 100 competitors currently in the race to develop a vaccine, and tests on humans are already underway in the U.S., China, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The German effort is led by Professor Ugur Sahin, who began clinical trials last month.

“We are pretty confident. We are working on vaccines for many, many years,” he told Williams.

Sahin said his team is compressing the typical phases of the human trial to try to develop a vaccine faster. It normally takes several years, but this time scientists are hoping they can get it done in mere months.

Asked whether speeding the process up would bring extra safety concerns, Sahin stressed that clinical trials were “about safety, safety -safety is first.”

If a vaccine is developed — and there’s no guarantee of success — the next challenge will be manufacturing and distributing it to protect people around the world by the billion.


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