The UK pledged more than $700 million to ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is distributed fairly across the world

  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £571 million ($727 million) to a World Health Organization effort to ensure a coronavirus vaccine is distributed fairly across the globe. 
  • Johnson addressed the UN General Assembly in a recorded speech on Saturday. He said the COVID-19 pandemic caused countries to have divided approaches to mitigating its spread. 
  • He told leaders that they "simply can't continue in this way," and urged them to unite against the "common foe," or the virus. 
  • The prime minister had initially been slow to issue country-wide stay-at-home mandates and distribute testing before contracting the virus himself on March 27.
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK would pledge £571 million ($727 million) to ensure the COVID-19 vaccine would get distributed to the world's poorest countries.

Johnson announced the move during a prerecorded speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday. The funding will go toward COVAX, an effort spearheaded by the World Health Organization to develop, manufacture, and distribute coronavirus vaccines evenly across the world.

In his remarks, Johnson urged countries to unite against the virus, which he called "common foe." He said the coronavirus has divided countries, resulting in a global patchwork of coronavirus regulations and closed borders.

"After nine months of fighting COVID-19, the very notion of the international community looks, frankly, pretty tattered," Johnson said. "And we know that we simply can't continue in this way. Unless we get our act together."

The US and China opted out of participating in COVAX, which an initial plan projects would raise funding from its wealthiest member countries to release vaccine doses to "all countries reach enough quantities to cover 20% of their population" before a second wave would allocate doses based on each country's "COVID threat and vulnerability." 

The prime minister had initially been slow to issue country-wide stay-at-home mandates and distribute testing before contracting the virus himself on March 27. Johnson ordered restaurants to close and people to work from home earlier this week after the country recorded thousands of new cases in several parts of the country. A September study found coronavirus infections were doubling every week from people returning to work and increasing social interaction.

Johnson also said he would increase funding to WHO by 30%, or £340 million ($433 million) over the next four years.

"Here in the UK, the birthplace of Edward Jenner who pioneered the world's first vaccine, we are determined to do everything in our power to work with our friends across the UN, to heal those divisions and to heal the world," Johnson said.

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