Celebrities, world leaders and philanthropists pledged some 7.4 billion euros on Monday for research into coronavirus vaccines, treatments and testing during an EU-led videoconference that was snubbed by the United States.
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, who hosted the conference, said a vaccine was the best chance of beating the COVID-19 disease, which has so far killed nearly a quarter of a million people around the world — 140,000 of them in Europe.
Major European powers, along with Japan and Canada, made the biggest pledges but the lack of US representation raised the prospect of an uncoordinated competition to develop and produce a vaccine.
Some wealthy American individuals did take part, and pop star Madonna’s million-dollar contribution was feted by EU officials.
The conference narrowly missed its target of 7.5 billion euros — although a handful of contributors did not put a sum on their pledges — but UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that much more would be needed, putting the final sum required near 38 billion euros.
These funds are a kind of down payment for the development of new tools at the speed needed,” Guterres told the conference. “But to reach everyone everywhere we likely need five times that amount. Nonetheless, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the fundraising as a powerful show of “global solidarity”.
The donations came from around 40 countries, the UN, research institutes and philanthropic bodies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Malta contributed 400,000 euros to the cause.