By Michael Davenport, British Ambassador to Kuwait
The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest public health challenge we have faced for generations. Currently, there is no vaccine. Without one, we risk seeing recurrences of the disease and a return to the various strict measures we have seen around the world, including in the UK and Kuwait. These measures have helped to shield our health services, and bought us time, but economies have been hit, incomes reduced and jobs lost. Decisive and coordinated action is now needed on a global scale to find an effective vaccine and ensure it is distributed widely and affordable for all.
To kick-start the monumental international effort required, on 4 May we joined the European Commission, Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Italy, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia to host the Global Coronavirus Response Initiative, in which Kuwait also participated, to raise over $7.5 billion for research and development. The United Kingdom contributed $475 million to that initiative for Coronavirus treatments, vaccines and tests.
Only by working together can we win this battle. The international effort to develop a vaccine is already under way. In the UK, scientists are working at pace at Oxford University and Imperial College, London, supported by British government funding. Human clinical trials are now taking place and delivering preliminary results.
No single country, and no single pharmaceutical company, will be able to develop or produce a vaccine alone. The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed. We need global coordination and global resources – from development to delivery. Crucially, we must ensure that any effective vaccines are available to those who most need them, including in the world’s poorest countries.
This is where Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, comes in. In its 10 years of operations, Gavi has delivered vaccines to over 700 million children worldwide. Over the next four years Gavi’s goal is to deliver vaccines, including any future Coronavirus vaccine, to a further 300 million children, saving 8 million lives. The UK is Gavi’s largest donor and has made a fresh commitment of over $2 billion to Gavi for 2021-2025. Gavi needs at least $7.4 billion dollars to achieve its goals. That’s why the UK is virtually hosting the 4 June Global Vaccine Summit – to ensure that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has the funds needed to deliver vaccines against diseases such as measles, polio and cholera in the world’s poorest countries, and to guarantee equitable access to effective new coronavirus vaccines, especially in developing countries. I am delighted that Kuwait, which is already contributing generously to the World Health Organisation’s international effort to tackle COVID-19, will be represented by Sheikh Dr Ahmad Al-Sabah, Foreign Minister.
As a world-leading and pioneering research hub, the UK is offering scientific leadership to develop new vaccines to tackle this major global health threat. We are supporting the vaccines, treatments and tests development process ‘end-to-end’ – from research and development, through to access and delivery – working closely with our international partners, Kuwait included.
We have all been impressed by Kuwait’s sober assessment at an early stage of the pandemic, with robust measures put in place swiftly and efficiently. Kuwait has used innovative measures to track those returning to the country and embraced technological solutions to problems such as access to food and essential services.
We are proud to be standing side by side with our international partners in tackling coronavirus. Through learning from each other, we can be prepared for future challenges. Through sharing our knowledge and pooling our resources, we can react more quickly and more effectively to new outbreaks. And through our support for global institutions like Gavi and the WHO, we can ensure vaccines and treatments will be made available as widely as possible.