World leaders called Monday for cooperation not competition in the quest for a coronavirus vaccine, as they pledged 7.4 billion euros ($8.1 billion) at a fundraising telethon snubbed by the United States.
COVID-19 has killed nearly a quarter of a million people around the world — 140,000 of them in Europe — and Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Commission and the host of the videoconference, said a vaccine is the best chance of beating the disease.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the fundraising as a powerful show of “global solidarity”.
Major European powers, along with Japan and Canada, made the biggest pledges from around 40 countries, but there was no official US representation, weakening the event and raising the prospect of an uncoordinated competition to develop and produce a vaccine.
Some wealthy American individuals did take part, and pop star Madonna’s million-dollar contribution was feted by EU officials.