April 24, 2020 / 1:56 PM / a month ago

World must ensure equal access for all to COVID-19 vaccines, drugs: WHO

FILE PHOTO: Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-2019), in Geneva, Switzerland, February 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

GENEVA/LONDON (Reuters) - All new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments against the new coronavirus must be made equally available to everyone worldwide, the World Health Organization said on Friday as it outlined a plan to accelerate work to fight COVID-19.

Launching what he called a “landmark collaboration” to speed the development of effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent and treat COVID-19, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the lung disease was a “common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach”.

“Experience has told us that even when tools are available they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen,” Tedros said in a virtual conference.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the objective at a global pledging effort in early May would be to raise 7.5 billion euros ($8.10 billion) to ramp up work on prevention, diagnostics and treatment.

“This is a first step only, but more will be needed in the future,” she told the conference.

Cyril Ramaphosa, chairman of the African Union, praised WHO’s “excellent stewardship” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic that has swept around the world. He warned that the African continent was “extremely vulnerable to the ravages of this virus and is in need of support”.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Mike Shields in Geneva, Kate Kelland in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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