Britain leads the way on coronavirus vaccines

Thursday June 4 2020

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Health experts have identified the challenge facing developing countries’ healthcare systems as one of the biggest risks in terms of the global spread of the virus. PHOTO | FILE  

By Jo Lomas

Coronavirus is affecting communities around the world. We do not yet know how profound and far-reaching an effect it will ultimately have on all of us. Nevertheless, it is clear no one is safe until we are all safe.

Right now, there is a bleak outlook for many countries, especially those in the developing world, which are experiencing health, humanitarian and economic crises.

These countries face the prospect of great hardship for years to come. Health experts have identified the challenge facing developing countries’ healthcare systems as one of the biggest risks in terms of the global spread of the virus. And in tackling COVID-19 we cannot ignore other healthcare challenges.

That is why the UK is virtually hosting the Global Vaccine Summit on 4th June, where we and other nations, including Rwanda, will come together to secure the future of global vaccinations through Gavi, the global Vaccine Alliance.

We are delighted that President Kagame will be participating. The UK is Gavi’s leading donor providing 25 per cent  of its core funding, and on 29 April pledged the equivalent of $2 billion over the next five years to protect 75 million children from diseases such as measles, typhoid and pneumonia.

The summit will be led by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, bringing together other nations, major donors and pharmaceutical companies to raise the funds Gavi needs to vaccinate children worldwide against these devastating diseases, and in turn strengthen healthcare systems.

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Here in Rwanda, Gavi works closely with the government of Rwanda to support immunisation across the country. Since 2001, Gavi has provided over $150 million of support to Rwanda.

Last year, Gavi fully funded a new vaccine warehouse and offices costing over $1.5 million, and the government provided the land.

This allows all vaccines in Rwanda to be stored in an international-standard facility. And Gavi has just launched a new project worth $9.8 million that enables tracking of children through their life course of vaccines to support the good health of every child.

Meanwhile the only way to end the current pandemic for good is through a vaccine— one of  the greatest shared endeavours of our lifetime.

So far, the UK has pledged £744m in total to develop a vaccine, making us the biggest supporter of the international vaccine research run by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. 

British scientists are working with international partners, and clinical trials are already underway in the UK with support from our government’s vaccine taskforce.

Ending the pandemic and its threats to the UK will only be possible if a vaccine is available to everyone.

I am proud that the UK has led efforts with the World Health Organisation and countries including France, Germany, Malaysia and South Africa to agree that any new vaccine is made available around the world.

Working together to tackle coronavirus is the only way we will ultimately defeat it.

Jo Lomas is British High Commissioner to Rwanda

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