Australia has this week committed $352 million AUD to a European Union-led coronavirus vaccine research fund.
The announcement was made during a global online pledging moment attended by world leaders on May 4, intended to raise funds to cover the $8 billion USD ($12.2 billion AUD) funding gap needed to urgently produce a COVID-19 vaccine.
Major pledges from leaders across Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Japan, Canada, Saudi Arabia and more helped make up a landmark total of €7.4 billion, equivalent to $8 billion USD — which will primarily work to support the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Ursula von der Leyen, the event host and president of the European Commission, thanked Australia and all pledging nations, before stressing that further bipartisan action will be required to achieve a vaccine in the next 12 to 18 months.
“Today is a defining moment for the global community. It will create a truly unique, global public good,” von der Leyen said in a Twitter post after the event. “More will be needed — today is only the start of a global pledging marathon to bring under the same roof all global health organisations to fight the pandemic.”
Fifteen million dollars from Australia will go to two European research institutes, CEPI and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, with the rest split between existing research projects by the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, University of Queensland and Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Csiro).
"We are also stepping up to assist our region,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during the online conference. “Our development program is pivoting to focus on COVID-19, especially in our family neighbourhood of the Pacific and Southeast Asia, where we can have the most impact. Out of our grief and sadness comes a strong determination to beat this virus by working together.”
The $352 million pledge is the latest in Australia’s efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
Australian PM Scott Morrison among many world leaders (US and Russia not included) making funding commitments to the development and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine. Time difference meant his contribution was pre-recorded. Pledged $352m AUD @SBSNewspic.twitter.com/zrZc9R4NDG— Ben Lewis (@benlewismedia) May 4, 2020
Australia had already shown its support by pledging over $1.1 million to the WHO’s Pacific response plan, which will work to provide protective supplies for local health care workers and guidance on risk communication tactics to Pacific leaders.
A $2.4 billion health package and $17.6 billion economic plan has also been announced to protect Australians.
The country's research facilities are also leading the global coronavirus efforts, with researchers from Melbourne’s Monash University and Victoria’s Alfred Health developing coronavirus immunity testing and Csiro beginning the initial stage of pre-clinical testing for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.
Australia also contributes $170 million each year to global partners working on vaccine, drug and diagnostics development.
During the Coronavirus Global Response pledging event, Australia also announced it was preparing to continue its support of Gavi — an organisation that works to ensure everyone can access live-saving vaccinations against a range of deadly preventable diseases — with a new investment next month.
Global Citizen has been campaigning for Australia to give Gavi the best chance at protecting 300 million children by 2025 by coming to the table with a new $300 million investment.
You can join the call and ask Australia to strongly contribute to Gavi here.