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EU chief calls May 4 donor conference on virus vaccine

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/ AFP/Getty images

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Wednesday called a donors conference for May 4 to fund the creation and global deployment of a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.

A vaccine “is our collective best shot at beating the virus. To support this global initiative, funding is needed,” Brussels’ top official told a videolink news conference.

The pledging conference will be held online and will be done in close coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO), von der Leyen said.

She added that health charities the Wellcome Trust of Britain and the Gates Foundation of US tech billionaire Bill Gates were involved in the preparations.

“I hope that countries and organisations all over the world will respond to this call,” von der Leyen, herself an academic medical expert before entering politics, said.

Separately, the EU’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, denounced the decision by US President Donald Trump to halt his country’s funding of WHO.

“Deeply regret US decision to suspend funding to WHO,” he said in a tweet.

“There is no reason justifying this move at a moment when their efforts are needed more than ever to help contain and mitigate the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Dozens of possible vaccines are currently being researched around the world, but experts say procedures to vet them to ensure their efficacy and explore possible side-effects will take at least a year.

Ramping up production to provide a global supply of a proven vaccine would take months more.


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