05/04/2020, 16.20
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Japan and Saudi Arabia join global vaccine initiative

Launched by the European Union, the initiative aims at raising US.3 billion to develop, produce and distribute a vaccine. So far, every country has funded national research projects. The race between China and the United States to find a cure has acquired a geopolitical dimension. Pope Francis has called on all countries to join the common effort.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Japan and Saudi Arabia are the two Asian countries to join a global plan to develop a coronavirus vaccine launched by the European Union today.

The goal is to raise US.3 billion to fund the development and production of a vaccine that would be made available anywhere in the world at a reasonable price.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) will contribute to the joint effort, along with the G20, the African Union, the World Bank and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.

The Trump administration is not likely to join after it accused WHO of helping China conceal the coronavirus outbreak last December.

Washington, like Beijing, usually acts unilaterally. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the US agency responsible for procurement and development of countermeasures against, among other things, pandemic influenza and emerging diseases, has allocated one billion dollars to vaccine development.

By contrast, the US Academy of Medicine has distanced itself from the US government, saying that it was ready to finance the EU-led multilateral initiative.

Sinovac Biotech, a Chinese-based company, is already testing a vaccine on humans. It got 60 million yuan (US.4 million) in low-rate credit lines through a programme supported by China’s central bank. China’s government has also made land available to the company to build a plant capable of producing 100 million doses a year.

So far, the various countries have been funding national research projects. This has led to a race between the United States and China to come up with a cure, part of their geopolitical confrontation that covers the military, trade and technological fields.

For many observers however, the absence of a global project is leading states, charities and pharmaceutical firms to spend billions of dollars on research that has little chance of success.

Historically, just 6 per cent of vaccine candidates end up making it to market, often after a long process, which is not the case during this frantic time.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis also spoke about the issue. Yesterday, he called for international collaboration to find shared solutions.

“It is important,” he said, “to harness the power of science in a transparent and disinterested way to find vaccines and treatments and to guarantee universal access to essential technologies that allow every infected person, in every part of the world, to receive the necessary health care.”

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