In Coronavirus Battle, $10 Billion Fund-Raising Drive Begins
(Bloomberg) -- After the coronavirus wiped $7.6 trillion off the world’s stock markets in four days, global health groups are asking companies, governments and even the public for billions of dollars to fight the contagion.
The World Health Organization set up a website seeking contributions from anyone in an attempt to raise at least $7 billion. Separately, a coalition backed by Bill Gates and Norway is considering a crowdfunding campaign as they seek to attract about $2 billion to speed up development of vaccines.
Urgency is rising as coronavirus cases climb to about 135,000 in more than 100 nations and doctors and nurses around the world struggle to slow the spread of the illness, dubbed Covid-19. The WHO this week declared the emergency a pandemic, and some countries have already given up on containment efforts.
“In less than 90 days, Covid-19 has become a global pandemic of proportions we have not seen in a century,” Elizabeth Cousens, the UN Foundation’s chief executive officer, said on a call with reporters. “This is essentially about investing now or paying later.”
The WHO’s solidarity-response fund will support efforts to track the spread of the virus, ensure sick patients get treated and raise defenses for countries around the world, especially those with the weakest health systems. It will also support the development of vaccines, treatments and tests. The organizers expect to start with donations from some of the world’s biggest companies.
Without fresh funds, the work on potential vaccines would slow down, making the ambitious goal of having products available within 12 to 18 months impossible, Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said in an interview.
After the German government pledged an additional 140 million euros ($156 million), CEPI has received $186 million of the $2 billion it estimates is necessary to get Covid-19 vaccine candidates across the line. But the group will need a whole lot more and will even contemplate turning to individuals.
“The general public certainly has a strongly vested interest in seeing the success of these scientific efforts,” Hatchett said.
Earlier this year, CEPI said it would fund vaccine projects led by Moderna Inc., Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. and the University of Queensland in Australia. Last month, GlaxoSmithKline Plc agreed to share its technology to the effort.
The WHO has appealed for about $675 million in emergency funds, and Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last month that the response was tepid. Now it’s expecting it will need at least 10 times that much to fund its efforts through the end of the year, according to Scott Pendergast, director for strategic planning.
Facebook Inc. will match as much as $10 million in donations, while Google will donate $5 million, the WHO said.
Significant funds have been committed to helping countries respond. The World Bank last week unveiled a support package of as much as $12 billion to help poorer countries strengthen their health systems and lessen the damage, while the International Monetary Fund followed with a plan to make about $50 billion available.
“I’m stressed about my near-term capital needs,” Hatchett said. “In another sense I’m quite confident the world will see this, relative to the costs that are being assumed, as a real bargain.”
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