$700 million raised so far for COVID-19 vaccines initiative for poor: WHO

A medical worker checks the temperature of a local resident during a regional health screening program in Rustenburg, South Africa on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. South Africa is mid-way through a three-week national lockdown and has sealed off its borders in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 1,749 people so far and claimed the lives of 13. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images

International donors have raised $700 million – less than half the target – to purchase future coronavirus vaccines for poor countries in a global initiative to ensure eventual vaccines do not go only to rich countries, a World Health Organization official said on Thursday.

The COVAX Advanced Market Commitment has an initial target of $2 billion to buy the vaccines.

“Up to today, what has been mobilised so far is $700 million … So there is a great deal of work to be done to diversify the possible sources of funding,” Matshidiso Moeti, Africa regional director for the WHO, told an online press briefing.

COVAX is co-led by the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, the WHO and the CEPI Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Its aim is to deliver 2 billion doses of effective, approved COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.

At least eight African countries, including South Africa, Gabon, Namibia and Equatorial Guinea had agreed to self-finance access to the vaccine, Moeti said.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said last month the continent had started to slowly “bend the curve” of COVID-19 infections as measures like mask-wearing and social distancing slow the spread of the pandemic