World leaders to launch WHO COVID-19 plan, but US won’t take part

GENEVA: French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will help launch a global initiative on Friday to accelerate work to fight COVID-19, the World Health Organization said, but the United States said no will participate.
The WHO said Thursday night that it would announce a "landmark collaboration" on Friday to accelerate the development of safe and effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said at a UN briefing on Friday that Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen would take part in the 1300 GMT announcement, led by the director general of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also participated, diplomatic sources told Reuters.
"Today it is a kind of political commitment from all these partners to make sure that when we have all these new tools, no one is left behind, that those who can pay for vaccines or therapeutic products can buy them and make them available to the population," said Chaib. .
"It is very important to ensure we have equitable access to new, efficient and quality tools for COVID-19," he said.
A spokesman for the US mission in Geneva told Reuters that the United States will not participate.
"There will be no official United States participation," he said in an email response to a query. "We hope to learn more about this initiative in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as possible."
The President of the United States, Donald Trump, criticized the WHO for being slow to react to the outbreak and for being "focused on China" and announced a suspension of funds.
When asked if the United States was going to participate in the meeting, a WHO source said, "No, but almost everyone else does."
VACCINE TESTS
More than 2.7 million people have been infected with the disease, which has claimed nearly 190,000 lives since it emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, according to a Reuters count.
More than 100 potential COVID-19 vaccines are being developed, including six already in clinical trials, said Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI vaccine alliance, a public-private partnership that leads immunization campaigns in poor countries.
"We need to make sure there are enough vaccines for everyone, we are going to need global leadership to identify and prioritize vaccine candidates," he said at a separate press conference in Geneva before taking part in the formal WHO announcement.
Global manufacturing capacity needs to be increased before choosing the "winning" vaccine, Berkley said, noting that GAVI and the World Bank were discussing the issue.
"We cannot repeat what happened in 2009, the H1N1 flu vaccine, when there was not enough supply for developing countries or when supply came it came much later," he said.
Another important question was how well a vaccine would work in people at increased risk for COVID-19, Berkley said.
"How well do they work in the elderly, are they single or multiple doses, etc.?" he said, noting that older people had weaker immune systems.

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