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Prime Minister pledges UK aid backing for coronavirus vaccine search

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The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday that the UK is using its aid budget to help find a coronavirus vaccine, has been widely covered in media.

Much coverage featured his plea to world leaders to unite to develop a vaccine – amid wider calls for greater international cooperation in battling the disease.

The UK is now the biggest global donor to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI) in its search for a coronavirus vaccine, as outlets including the Mail, Mirror and Evening Standard reported yesterday. The Prime Minister announced the new £210 million funding following his call with other G20 leaders, calling on governments to work together to create a vaccine as quickly as possible and make it available to anyone who needs it.

Future vaccines developed through CEPI will be then be made available at the lowest possible price to the NHS and other countries’ healthcare systems, helping ensure poorer nations can distribute vaccines as well as the UK.

In The Times the coverage cited previous comments from Dr Seth Berkley, the chief executive officer of Gavi, the Global Vaccine Alliance. Dr Berkely’s calls for the world’s wealthiest nations to co-operate on vaccine development and distribution were echoed by the Prime Minister yesterday.

The UK has a long-term commitment to investment in vaccines and global health systems. UK aid has supported the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance for 20 years, allowing them to immunise over 760 million children and saving over 13 million lives worldwide. Gavi is expected to play a key role in ensuring that any new coronavirus vaccine is available and affordable around the world.

The record £210 million of UK aid announced for CEPI by the Prime Minister on Thursday was accompanied by a further £63 million of UK aid to help produce rapid tests for coronavirus and to develop and test medicines to treat the disease, for use in the UK and around the world.

Yesterday the Department for International Development also announced a £100 million handwashing partnership with British consumer company Unilever, supported by up to £50 million of UK aid. The partnership will lead to a global awareness campaign reaching 1 billion people to change behaviour and encourage regular handwashing. It will also give 20 million soap and hygiene products to the poorest people.

Regular handwashing is one of the most effective ways to protect against infection and this partnership will help save lives and help slow the spread of the virus in the most vulnerable countries. Global health experts have identified the weakness of developing countries’ healthcare systems as one of the biggest risks to the global spread of the virus. The Unilever story was covered in the i paper and The Guardian.

Images and videos of vaccine research and the handwashing outreach programme are available on DFID’s Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. The Prime Minister also commented on the research funding announcement on twitter.

Yesterday’s package of support means the Government has now pledged £544 million of UK aid to fight the global spread of the virus, including through research and development of vaccines, treatments and tests; supporting health systems in developing countries; and helping lessen the economic impact on the poorest nations.

Some £71 million of UK aid had already been allocated in recent weeks to support research and development of vaccines, treatments and rapid testing. This week the Telegraph and FT reported on UK-based laboratory Mologic’s announcement that it would begin global trials for a new coronavirus rapid testing kit which was developed using some of this UK aid funding.

The UK has also led the way in responding to the economic impact of coronavirus. Up to £150 million of UK aid was announced in the Spring Budget to support the International Monetary Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT). This helps developing countries deal with the short term economic disruption caused by coronavirus, allowing them to focus their spending on tackling the outbreak.

The £544 million of UK aid provided so far to the international response to the pandemic includes:

  • £250 million (including £210 million yesterday) to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the biggest contribution of any country, to research a coronavirus vaccine.
  • £40 million to support the Therapeutic Accelerator, a fund for the rapid development of coronavirus treatments.
  • £23 million to develop rapid testing for the virus to help identify and slow its spread
  • £10 million for further research and development projects to help develop diagnostics and treatments
  • £150 million to the International Monetary Fund to help developing countries deal with the short term economic disruption caused by the pandemic
  • £50 million for a global handwashing campaign with Unilever to help slow the spread of the virus in the most vulnerable countries
  • £21 million to support multilateral organisations like the World Health Organisations and humanitarian organisations like UNICEF and Red Cross to help developing countries to manage the spread of the virus

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