Financial support for Covid-19 vaccination efforts in lower-income nations received a $2.4 billion boost on Wednesday when world leaders met at a virtual summit co-hosted by the Japanese government and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The funds were pledged by wealthier countries, foundations and private companies. Five countries — Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Spain and Sweden — also announced new plans to share a total of 54 million doses from their domestic supplies with countries in need.
The support is primarily designated for Covax, a year-old initiative promoting equity in the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. It has shipped more than 77 million doses to 127 countries and is led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The funds were sought to purchase additional vaccines for the countries least able to afford them as well as to invest in new vaccine candidates. “Ability to pay should not determine whether someone is protected from this virus,” said Dr. Seth Berkley, the chief of executive of Gavi.
Still, to date only 0.4 percent of all Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered in low-income countries, according to W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who spoke at the meeting. In many countries, even the most vulnerable adults and health care workers have not received vaccinations. Dr. Berkley said that, on average, wealthy countries have vaccinated more than a third of their populations.
How quickly wealthier countries deliver on their promises to share doses remains to be seen; most previously announced gifts have yet to be delivered.
The largest new financial pledge, $800 million, came from Japan, which also said it would eventually share 30 million doses of locally produced vaccines. To date, it has administered only about 14 million shots to its own population.
The U.S. previously announced $2 billion in support for Covax, and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke at the summit meeting but didn’t address ongoing calls for the United States to move more quickly to share its vaccine supply, especially as its vaccination rates increase and cases of Covid-19 fall dramatically. “Our collective future depends on the collective response to the global crisis,” Ms. Harris said. “The challenge before us is to provide equal access.”
She added, “People are still contracting Covid-19. People are still dying every day. And that is why we must work together to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible in every nation throughout the world.”
New pledges came from France, Switzerland, Australia, Kuwait, Mauritius, Mexico and Vietnam, among others. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mastercard and the Visa Foundation were among institutions committing funds, and the European Investment Bank announced additional financing to support cost-sharing with African Union countries.
As of Wednesday, $9.6 billion had been raised for Covax’s Advance Market Commitment, a financing mechanism to secure vaccines for low and middle income economies