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Global vaccines program gets $8.8 billion shot in the arm

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Governments around the world on Thursday pledged $8.8 billion for global vaccines alliance Gavi to help immunization programs disrupted by coronavirus, prompting calls for global cooperation to ensure a potential COVID-19 vaccine is available to all.

The online meeting beat a target to raise $7.4 million to provide vaccines at a much reduced cost to 300 million children worldwide over the next five years.

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More than 50 countries took part as well as individuals such as billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, whose foundation pledged $1.6 billion.

Gavi also launched a new initiative to purchase potential COVID-19 vaccines, scale-up production and support delivery to developing nations, which raised $567 million in seed money.

10 Downing Street/AFP / Andrew PARSONS US billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates stumped up $1.6 billion for the vaccine drive

“Together, we rise to fulfill the greatest shared endeavor of our lifetimes — the triumph of humanity over disease,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the summit.

“Today we make the choice to unite, to forge a path of global cooperation.”

Scientists around the world are racing to develop and test a coronavirus vaccine and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said it must be available to everyone.

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“A vaccine must be seen as a global public good — a people’s vaccine, which a growing number of world leaders are calling for,” he said in a video message.

There needs to be “global solidarity to ensure that every person, everywhere, has access”.

The pandemic has exposed new ruptures in international cooperation, notably with US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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AFP / John SAEKIRace for a COVID-19 vaccine

But Gavi chief executive Seth Berkley insisted there must be a “global perspective”.

“At the end of the day, if you have large outbreaks of COIVD anywhere in the world, it threatens the world,” he said.

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– Doesn’t discriminate –

The United States pledged $1.16 billion to Gavi’s fundraising drive, and Trump sent a recorded message to the conference.

“As the coronavirus has shown, there are no borders. It doesn’t discriminate,” he said.

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“It’s mean, it’s nasty. But we can all take care of it together… we will work hard. We will work strong.”

10 Downing Street/AFP / Andrew PARSONS Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosted the Global Vaccine Summit online raising pledges of $8.8 billion

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 6.5 million and killed over 385,000 people since emerging in China last December, according to an AFP tally of official sources.

If a vaccine is developed, Microsoft founder Gates said Gavi hoped to be able to buy it for the poorest countries.

He said pharmaceutical companies had been working together to try to secure the required production capacity.

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“It’s been amazing, the pharmaceutical companies stepping up to say ‘yes, even if our vaccine is not the best, we will make our factories available’,” he told BBC radio.

– Immunisations disrupted –

Stay-at-home orders have been imposed across the world to stem the spread of coronavirus, causing huge economic disruption and the suspension of routine immunization programs for preventable diseases such as measles and polio.

The WHO, UN children’s agency UNICEF and Gavi warned last month that vaccine services were disrupted in nearly 70 countries, affecting some 80 million children under the age of one.

Polio eradication drives were suspended in dozens of countries, while measles vaccination campaigns were also put on hold in 27 countries, UNICEF said.

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Recent modeling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimated that for every coronavirus death prevented by halting vaccination campaigns in Africa, up to 140 people could die from vaccine-preventable diseases.

Since it was formed in 2000, Gavi says it has helped to immunize more than 760 million children.

But Berkley warned: “These historic advances in global health are now at risk of unravelling as COVID-19 causes unprecedented disruption to vaccine programs worldwide.”

Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde told the meeting that her nation had seen “how the life of a helpless child is transformed to a better future through immunizations”.

She added: “As much as a coordinated and cooperative global response is needed to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, we should not lose sight of the fact that the vaccine’s success is strongly linked to maintaining routine immunization.

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“Which means the need to maintain the supply chain and the immunization infrastructure as well.”


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Gov. Ron DeSantis still won’t reveal true COID-19 data — so things are probably much worse

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Florida reached 213,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, as Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to encourage the state to reopen at all costs.

According to CNN's Randi Kaye, the numbers spell "trouble" for the state as it's GOP leaders are opting for a simplistic approach to reopening.

Just in the last 24 hours, they have had more than 1,600 people hospitalized for COVID," she cited. "In the last two weeks, the hospitalization haves gone up 90 percent. The ICU bed demand has gone up 86 percent, and the ventilator usage has gone up 127 percent. The governor is saying he's sending 100 nurses and 47 beds to Jackson Health because they need it so much. But at last check, we've noted that about 56 hospitals around the state have run out of ICU beds, which means they have no space for anyone who needs an ICU bed. This is really critical for Miami-Dade because they make up the 24 percent of the cases throughout the state, so they really need those hospital beds."

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CNN’s Anderson Cooper exposes Trump’s lies on COVID deaths: He ‘doesn’t want you to know the whole story’

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On CNN Tuesday, anchor Anderson Cooper laid into President Donald Trump for his false narratives about the coronavirus pandemic.

"New modeling from the University of Washington today forecasts 208,000 people in this country may be dead of COVID-19 by Election Day," said Cooper. "Which the president still does not seem to think is all that bad. Because he is still repeating the same falsehoods as ever about testing and mortality, which fell for a while, but is once again sadly, sickeningly, ticking up."

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‘We’re moving in the wrong direction’: Houston mayor issues dire warning about Texas COVID-19 explosion

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On CNN Tuesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner warned that the COVID-19 situation in Texas is worsening.

"What is your response in reaching this new milestone of 10,000 cases in Texas in a single day?" asked anchor Wolf Blitzer.

"It's scary, not one I like to brag about," said Turner. "Today, for the first time in a long time, we reported in the City of Houston 1,060, so we represented about 10 percent of those cases. We are moving in the wrong direction. That's why we have to clamp down and slow the virus."

"Mayor, you have said the number of people in ICU beds has exponentially increased," said Blitzer. "Are you in danger in Houston of running out of space to care for the critically ill coronavirus patients?"

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