WHO Seeks $31.3 Bn in Funding for COVID-19 Initiatives

By Miranda Greenberg -

July 2, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a detailed plan that seeks $31.3 billion in funding to support the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration launched by the WHO and others to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

The collaboration was launched in late April (April 2020) at an event co-hosted by the WHO’s Director-General, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. It is focused on four pillars relating to COVID-19: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, and healthcare systems. With the launch, the WHO specified that it would update funding targets and activities as the collaboration seeks to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The WHO’s plan calls for $31.3 billion in overall funding with funding targets in specific areas: vaccines ($18.1 billion), therapeutics ($7.2 billion), and diagnostics ($6 billion).

Vaccines. The vaccines pillar is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a public–private coalition that seeks to derail epidemics by speeding up the development of vaccines, Gavi, a global public health partnership, and the WHO. The goal of the vaccines pillar is the development of safe, effective vaccines against COVID-19 and support for building manufacturing capabilities and buying supply so that 2 billion doses can be delivered worldwide by the end of 2021. For these efforts, the WHO says it will need $18.1 billion over the next 18 months (as reported on June 26, 2020). The ACT-Accelerator’s vaccines pillar has created a Global COVID-19 Vaccine Facility through which countries can work together to share risk by accessing a portfolio of vaccine candidates. At the same time, countries can optimize their chances of accessing the number of doses they need, whether by financing procurement themselves or through official development assistance. The pillar is currently investing in vaccine-production capacity across several candidates so that, upon regulatory approval, doses can be made available immediately.

Therapeutics. The therapeutics pillar, convened by the Wellcome Trust, a research-charity based in London, and UNITAID, a global health organization focused on the prevention and treatment of major diseases in low- and middle-income countries, aims to develop effective new therapeutics for COVID-19 and to ensure the manufacture, procurement, and distribution of 245 million courses of these treatments to low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021. For these efforts, the WHO says it will need $7.2 billion over the next 12 months (as reported on June 26, 2020).

Diagnostics. The diagnostics pillar, convened by the Global Fund, an international financing and partnership organization, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a Geneva, Switzerland-based global health organization focused on diagnostics for infectious diseases, is seeking to have 500 million diagnostic tests for COVID-19  available in low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021, of which 85 million does will be deployed over the next six months. The WHO says it will need $6 billion over the next 12 months (as reported on June 26, 2020).

Health systems. The health systems connector pillar is led by the World Bank and the Global Fund and is working to ensure that these tools reach the people who need them.

Manufacturing goals and plans

Cross-cutting all of the work of the pillars and fundamental to the goals of the ACT-Accelerator is the Access and Allocation workstream, which is led by the WHO, which is developing the principles, frameworks and mechanisms needed to ensure the fair and equitable allocation of these tools. Although the tools developed will benefit all countries globally, the WHO says the ACT-Accelerator pillars will also purchase and deliver them to low- and middle-income countries. It outlines three main phases of this workstream: (1) research and development and country preparedness; (2) market preparedness and ensuring sufficient manufacturing capabilitiies; and (3) large-scale procurement of products and equitable delivery.

The WHO specifies that market preparedness and manufacturing activities are crucial and specifies key activities in these areas as outlined below:

  • Creating mechanisms to aggregate demand across countries;
  • Designing market interventions to make products available and affordable;
  • Securing manufacturing and production capabilities;
  • Working out allocation strategies to ensure equitable and transparent access;
  • Providing regulatory support, including for regulatory approvals;
  • Building a large-scale inventory and manufacturing reservation to ensure affordable pricing in preparation of procurement;
  • Diversifying supply chains by fostering innovative licensing agreements on technology and know-how transfers as well as strengthening local production;
  • Setting up adequate supply systems, including cold-chain capacity; and
  • Creating risk-sharing mechanism to secure investments.

Monies raised to date

The WHO says since the launch of the ACT-Accelerator on April 24, 2020, many governments, foundations, companies, and individuals have signaled their commitment and have made financial pledges. To date (as reported on June 26, 2020), these pledges total $11 billion, of which $3.4 billion has been raised for the three pillars (vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, $1.7 billion for the health systems connector, and the balance for COVID-19 response activities. The WHO says these pledges represent 11% of the total investment needed for implementing the goals of the vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics pillars.

The WHO says it plans to update its funding needs in the early fall of 2020 as the first ACT-Accelerator milestones for product development are achieved and more epidemiological data become available.

Source: The World Health Organization