By Kate Kelland and Stephanie Nebehay
LONDON/GENEVA (Reuters) - A World Health Organization-led coalition fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is asking government and private sector donors to help raise $31.3 billion in the next 12 months to develop and deliver tests, treatments and vaccines for the disease.
Renewing its call on Friday for global collaboration against the pandemic, it said $3.4 billion had been contributed for the coalition to date, leaving a funding gap of $27.9 billion. Of that, $13.7 billion was "urgently needed".
The WHO is working with a large coalition of drug-development, funding and distribution organisations under what it calls the ACT-Accelerator Hub.
The initiative is intended to develop and deliver 500 million COVID-19 tests and 245 million courses of new treatment for the disease to low- and middle-income countries by mid-2021, it said in a statement.
It also hoping 2 billion vaccines doses, including 1 billion to be bought by low- and middle-income countries, will be available by the end of 2021.
"SIGNIFICANT" INVESTMENT REQUIRED
The ACT-Accelerator was launched in April to speed up research and development work on medical tools to tackle COVID-19. On Friday, the WHO said the pandemic was still threatening millions of lives and scores of economies, and urgent work and funds were needed.
"The investment required is significant, but it pales in significance when compared to the cost of COVID-19," it said.
"The total cost of the ACT-Accelerator's work is less than a tenth of what the IMF estimates the global economy is losing every month due to the pandemic. 468,000 thousand people have already lost their lives."
As the race to find a vaccine has accelerated, governments including the United States and in Europe, have rushed to agree advance purchases of promising coronavirus immunisation treatments.
That has raised concerns about the equitable distribution of and access to supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, particularly for lower- and middle-income countries.
WHO chief scientist Souma Swaminathan said the programme had had "really very constructive" engagement with companies about the involvement of the private sector.
(Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger and Matthias Blamont; Writing by Nick Macfie and Josephine Mason; Editing by Giles Elgood and Timothy Heritage)