May 4, 2020 / 8:08 AM / 21 days ago

Global pledging 'marathon' aims to raise billions for COVID-19 vaccine

BRUSSELS, May 4 (Reuters) - World leaders will hold an international pledging “marathon” on Monday to raise at least 7.5 billion euros ($8.2 billion) for research into a possible vaccine and treatments for the novel coronavirus, after rich countries promised a unified response.

Organised by the European Union, non-EU states Britain and Norway, and Japan, Canada and Saudi Arabia, leaders aim to raise funds over several weeks or months, building on efforts by the World Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wealthy individuals.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last month called the online pledging conference “a real marathon”, saying a vaccine to the respiratory disease COVID-19 was needed “in every corner of the world ... at affordable prices.”

The event starts at 1300 GMT on Monday but donation figures may not be known immediately. It is unclear how much of the money which will be pledged represents new funding, as financial commitments made earlier this year will also be included.

Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the Group of 20 industrialised countries, has pledged $500 million.

Some EU officials have raised concerns about countries counting in money already pledged earlier this year.

The 7.5 billion euro target is an initial figure. Von der Leyen has said countries will need more money over time.

Britain will hold another online donor summit on June 4. ($1 = 0.9147 euros) (Reporting by Robin Emmott; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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