The European Union recently held an online summit where over eight billion dollars was pledged to aid in developing a vaccine to battle COVID-19, and to fund research studying the diagnosis and treatment of the virus. The final donors included more than thirty countries and several UN and philanthropic organizations – alongside research institutes, and celebrities such as the singer, Madonna. Additionally, the world leaders who acted as signatories to the initiative also gave their support to the World Health Organization, despite the U.S.’s criticism of its handling of the outbreak. The United States and Russia did not take part in the summit, and China participated through its ambassador to the European Union.
In her opening statement at the summit, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that everyone needed to contribute to finance “a truly global endeavor,” continuing to say “I believe that May 4th will mark a turning point in our fight against coronavirus, because today the world is coming together.” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spend three nights in intensive care suffering from coronavirus, confirmed the U.K.’s pledge of 388 million pounds to the initiative, and in his role as a co-host of the conference said that the “more we pull together” in sharing expertise, “the faster our scientists will succeed” in developing a vaccine. An open letter from the involved leaders said the funds raised would “kickstart an unprecedented global co-operation between scientists and regulators, industry and governments, international organizations, foundations, and healthcare professionals.”
The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any the world has ever seen, and it is truly international in its scope. While a vaccine could take several months yet, flooding the research and testing with the funding necessary to move this process along is tremendous and shows real respect for the medical and scientific community and the work they do. It is promising to see that despite the United States government’s disregard for the scientific community and unproductive attacks on the World Health Organization, most other countries in the world are signing on and working together to find a cure.
Currently, worldwide mandates are to stay home and practice social distancing, in order to try and prevent this spread; even so, death tolls are climbing in countries all around the world because of the sheer number of cases and a consequent shortage of necessary medical supplies. With no clear end in sight, a vaccine is becoming increasingly crucial every day in order to try and stem the tide of this outbreak and prevent future ones. The United Nations said that a return to normal, “pre-COVID” life will only be possible with a vaccine, but this future does not seem to be within sight. Most experts estimate that a suitable vaccine could take until mid-2021 to become available.
The efforts of this group of world leaders and international organizations to propel forward the efforts to find and disseminate a vaccine show the capacity of the world to come together at times of crisis. While it may still be several months before we have a workable vaccine widely available, and there is bound to be more uncertainty and tragedy to come, we can take some comfort in the fact that our international scientific and medical communities are hard at work, now with the resources they need to find this vaccine.