Norway pledges $1 billion to vaccines against COVID-19, other diseases

OSLO (Reuters) – Norway will give $1 billion to support the distribution worldwide of any vaccine developed against COVID-19 as well as for vaccines against other diseases, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday.

Oslo made the pledge as part of a donor conference held on Monday by the European Union to raise 7.5 billion euros ($8.23 billion) towards the testing, treatment and prevention of the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Non-EU member Norway is a co-chair of the event as a long-standing donor to global health initiatives.

“This is a global problem that needs common solutions between countries, not least with distribution, so that everyone gets access to the vaccine,” Solberg told Reuters in an interview ahead of the conference.

The $1 billion will go to GAVI, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, a global partnership of private and public organisations focusing on immunisation worldwide, as direct funding for the period 2021-2030. Norway has financed GAVI since its inception in 2000.

Solberg said she regretted the United States, a close ally of Norway, had stopped funding the World Health Organization (WHO) and that it was not part of Monday’s initiative, which also includes Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20 group of nations.

“It is a pity the U.S. is not a part of it. When you are in a crisis, you manage it and you do it jointly with others,” Solberg said.

“Everyone will certainly evaluate their work at some point and see what could have been done differently,” she said. “But you do this afterwards, not when you are in the middle of it.”

Oslo will also give an additional 50 million crowns ($4.8 million) to the WHO to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic, on top of its normal funding to the U.N. agency.

Norway has already announced 2.2 billion crowns in funding to the Oslo-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI), set up to fight emerging epidemics by funding the development of new vaccines.

She said it was also in the interest of western nations to help developing nations with their coronavirus response to prevent longer-term problems.

“Without the medicine and the (possible) vaccine, there will be bigger economic setbacks, bigger security and environmental challenges, as well as migration challenges,” she said.

(This story corrects currency in 9th paragraph to Norwegian crowns from U.S. dollars)

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