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U.S. says will not take part in WHO global drugs, vaccine initiative launch

The United States will not take part in the launching of a global initiative on Friday to speed the development, production and distribution of drugs and vaccines against COVID-19, a spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva said.

“There will be no U.S. official participation”, he said in an email reply to a query.

“We look forward to learning more about this initiative in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

World leaders have taken part in the launch of a global initiative to ensure equal access to the future vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The event, hosted by the World Health Organization, was notably snubbed by the US.

The launch of the “ACT accelerator” was held on Friday at the UN health body’s HQ in Geneva. The WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had a pretty impressive guest list for the ceremony, which included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

As expected in a Covid-19-gripped world, foreign dignitaries had to use video links to take part.

However not a single suitably high-ranking official from the US showed up, and the absence had nothing to do with a technical malfunction. The nation that last week defunded the WHO over its alleged cover-up of Covid-19’s seriousness simply snubbed the event.

“We look forward to learning more about this initiative in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 as soon as possible,” a spokesman for the US mission in Geneva said in an email to Reuters ahead of the meeting, stressing that “no US official participation” had been planned.

The initiative is meant to ensure that access to testing kits, therapeutic drugs and, eventually, working vaccines is provided to all who need it.

The WHO’s Ghebreyesus, whose resignation has been demanded by a number of US politicians, opened the ceremony by praising the global scientific response to the unprecedented health crisis posed by the coronavirus. Researchers from all corners of the world banded together to identify the pathogen, develop tools to predict and curb its spread, and to find ways to treat it.

But “even when tools are available, they had not been equally available to all” in past outbreaks, the UN official stressed. “We cannot allow that to happen.”

US President Donald Trump last week froze the WHO’s funding, pending an investigation into what he termed a “China-centric” behavior of the organization.

He claimed the WHO helped Beijing mislead the world in the early days of the crisis by underestimating Covid-19’s severity. Both have rejected the allegation.