World leaders, organisations and banks have promised $12.6 billion for research to find a COVID-19 vaccine.
The funds, pledged at a video-conference summit hosted by the EU, fell just short of the 7.5b euros ($A12.8b) being sought, but it’s expected more money could flow in coming days.
Scott Morrison was among the participants, pledging $352 million on behalf of Australia.
“COVID-19 is putting us all to the test and it is a test we are all rising to,” Mr Morrison said.
Notably absent from the event was the US, where more than 68,000 people have died of coronavirus as of Tuesday, and Russia.
US President Donald Trump’s administration was yet to commit the fundraising drive by Tuesday morning (Australian time). But Mr Trump was nonetheless adamant he was working other nations and was “very confident” about the progress of a vaccine on US shores.
Speaking to Fox News for a televised ‘town hall’, Mr Trump said a COVID-19 vaccine would be ready by the end of the year.
It would usually take two to 10 years for a vaccine to be created, he said, before adding that following discussions with the heads of pharmaceutical companies work on the vaccine is “so far ahead of any vaccine ever in history”.
“We are very confident that we’re going to have a vaccine at the end of the year – by the end of the year,” Mr Trump said.
“We’re pushing very hard. You know, we’re building supply lines.
“We have — many companies are, I think, close because I meet with the heads of them and I find it a very interesting subject because it’s so important.”
Mr Trump pointed to the clinical trial of the drug remdesivir, calling it a “game changer”.
“Look, we’re doing things at the FDA that’s never happened before. We’re getting approval so fast,” he said.
The timeline contradicts that given by the US government’s top expert Dr Anthony Fauci, who has cautioned that even if everything goes perfectly, developing a vaccine in 12 to 18 months would set a record for speed.
Leaders urge unity not competition
Despite not pledging to the fundraiser, Mr Trump said the US was working with other countries, adding “I’d take my hat off” to any nation that could come up with a vaccine.
“We’re working with Australia, we’re working with the UK,” he said.
In reaction to the news the US had not participated in the teleconference, other world leaders spoke publicly of the need to pull together and not make the vaccine race a competition between nations.
“We can’t just have the wealthiest countries, the most successful scientific countries, have this success and not share it with the world, because we will not be safer until we’re able to share it with the world,” Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “a race against time is under way” as he donated 500m euros ($A854m) on behalf of France.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the race to discover the vaccine was not a competition between countries, but “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”.
Together with our global partners we managed to register €7.4 billion (equivalent to $8 billion) in pledges during the Coronavirus #GlobalResponse event.
We thank everyone for their support.
The pledging marathon will continue.
— European Commission 🇪🇺 #UnitedAgainstCoronavirus (@EU_Commission) May 4, 2020
Some countries announced money for their own national research efforts combined with funds they would offer to international organisations.
Others also proposed a mix of loans with their funding. Pledges made toward vaccine research since January 30 were also counted.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the target being sought to help find a vaccine, new treatments and better tests for the disease would only ever amount to a “down payment” on the tools that will be needed.
“To reach everyone, everywhere, we likely need five times that amount,” Mr Guterres said.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrapped up the event after three hours in which 7.4b euros ($A12.6b) was collectively pledged for vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.
“All this money will help kick-start unprecedented global co-operation,” she said.
Among the larger contributions, Japan pledged more than $A1.2 billion while Germany offered 525m euros ($A896m).
About 100 research groups are pursuing vaccines, with nearly a dozen in early stages of human trials or poised to start.