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Swiss offer Geneva space for WHO pathogen exchange 

WHO director general Tedros Ghebreyesus thanked Switzerland for offering a secure lab in Geneva. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Switzerland has offered secure space for the Geneva-based WHO to store pathogen materials as part of a proposed new global mechanism for sharing pathogens in the fight against Covid-19. 

This content was published on November 13, 2020 - 15:28

“The pandemic has shown that there is an urgent need for a globally agreed system for sharing pathogen materials and clinical samples, to facilitate the rapid development of medical countermeasures as global public goods,” World Health Organization director-general Tedros Ghebreyesus said on Friday.  

Speaking in closing remarks to a virtual WHO Assembly, he stressed this was needed quickly. 

The WHO is proposing “a new approach that would include a repository for materials housed by WHO in a secure Swiss facility; an agreement that sharing materials into this repository is voluntary; that WHO can facilitate the transfer and use of the materials; and a set of criteria under which WHO would distribute them”.  

Ghebreyesus said a number of countries had shown interest. He thanked Swiss health minister Alain Berset and the federal government “for offering a BSL 4 lab to support this initiative”. 

COVAX on track 

Meanwhile, the COVAX vaccine pool led by WHO and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance said on Friday it has exceeded its interim target of raising more than $2 billion (CHF1.83 billion) to buy and distribute Covid-19 vaccines for poorer countries.  

These funds will allow COVAX to buy an initial one billion vaccine doses for 92 eligible countries that would not otherwise be able to afford them, according to a Gavi statement. But it said a further $5 billion will be needed in 2021 to buy Covid-19 vaccine doses as they come through development and are approved by regulators. 

Gavi chief Seth Berkley also told journalists on Friday that US drugmaker Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, who this week said their Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective in initial trials, had expressed interest in supplying doses to COVAX. 

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