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COVID vaccines

Japan commits another $800m to COVAX vaccine program

Gavi summit raises $2.4bn, meeting funding shortfall for 1.8bn doses

After announcing another $800 million donation to the COVAX facility, Japanese Prime Minister Suga called on other countries to also contribute. (Screenshot from The Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit's YouTube page)

TOKYO -- Japan is donating another $800 million to the COVAX facility, in addition to the $200 million the country has already disbursed, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday.

COVAX, which is led by Gavi, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, aims to secure vaccines to achieve equitable access, particularly among developing countries.

"I would like to deliver hope in the form of vaccines to as many people as possible in the world equally, as early as possible," said Suga at the virtual Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment Summit, hosted by Japan and global vaccine alliance Gavi.

The summit secured nearly $2.4 billion from governments and the private sector. Gavi met its goal of raising funds for delivering 1.8 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses to low-income countries, enough to vaccinate about half of the adult population in those countries by early 2022.

"We have taken a big step towards 'one world protected'," said Jose Manuel Barroso, chairman of Gavi. The fresh funds brought total COVAX financing to $9.6 billion, he added.

Other countries announcing additional contributions include Spain and Australia, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison saying: "This is a global pandemic -- it doesn't know politics, it doesn't know borders and none of us will be truly safe until all of us are safe.

Mexico and Poland joined as new donors. Together with an already announced contribution from Italy, these commitments filled a funding shortfall of $1.7 billion as of late April.

Corporations including Japanese trading company Toyota Tsusho also announced contributions at Wednesday's conference.

Participants also called for increasing vaccine output and distribution for countries in need.

South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said: "Vaccines with proven safety and efficacy should be produced in sufficient scale and rapidly distributed worldwide, including to countries that are vulnerable to health impacts."

Suga added Japan would aim to provide 30 million doses of locally made vaccines "through COVAX [and other means] to other countries and regions." He said this would happen "in the right time when we have the right conditions, as we currently face the difficult challenges of variants that are spreading and delays in vaccine supplies."

Suga also pledged to develop Japan's own vaccines that would be provided globally. "In the future, we would supply [the vaccines] to the world," he said.

To prepare for future pandemics, Suga said Japan would be "improving the clinical trial environment, including through capacity building support."

The Japanese government unveiled a long-term strategy on Tuesday to enable the speedy development and rollout of new vaccines. Japan's lengthy approval process has been a major hurdle in vaccinating the population amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"High-income countries have reserved more vaccines than they need," said the philanthropist Bill Gates. "So without compromising their own domestic vaccination efforts, these countries can be part of the effort to accelerate global vaccine access by sharing the excess doses. I encourage these nations to be bold and commit as soon as possible to sharing over 1 billion doses in 2021 mostly through GAVI's COVAX advance market commitment."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation later announced a $50 million commitment to COVAX.

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