The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has called for global cooperation on Wednesday to help administer COVID-19 vaccines for up to 7 billion people and offered a further US$150 million in funding towards the manufacturing of therapeutics and treatments.
A coronavirus vaccine could take up to 18 months to be fully ready and established as safe for humans, but global authorities and businesses must look towards distribution now, according to the foundation's chief executive Mark Suzman.
"It's normal to have, at maximum, hundreds of millions of doses manufactured", he said.
"When you are dealing with a novel pathogen like COVID-19, as and when we get to identifying a successful vaccine, we are going to need billions of doses."
"There are 7 billion people on the planet", he said. "We are going to need to vaccinate nearly every one. There is no manufacturing capacity to do that", he explained.
The additional funds from the foundation, which was established and is currently owned by mega-billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda, will be in addition to the $100 million it already announced in February to aid the international fight against the pandemic.
Much of the money is to support the development of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, therapeutic treatments and vaccines, and to make them globally available, he said.
As well as helping make the vaccines and treatments available globally, it will also be given to developing countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which lack sufficient material and infrastructure to combat the spread.
Some 100 potential vaccines are being developed and tested by scientists around the world but most will fail when it comes to trial, according to Suzman.
"A successful vaccine has to be available for 7 billion people. You need to test if there are unexpected side effects, or side effects within cohorts or groups, whether it's pregnant women or the elderly or the very young", said Suzman.
"The vast majority of vaccine candidates fail in those larger trials, the so-called phase-three trials", he added.
Suzman lauded the work of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which the Gates Foundation is the second-largest funder of behind the United States, describing the body as a "strong, reliable partner".
The vaccine will be the "fastest" developed in human history, but the production will require billions of dollars in funding, according to Suzman.
Who is working on the vaccine?
On Wednesday, European Commissioner chief Ursula von der Leyen called for a donors' conference on 4 May to help organise the creation and global distribution networks for the vaccine.
Both China and the United States are currently working on producing a vaccine for COVID-19 and have begun safety studies. However, the US announced on Thursday that it would be withdrawing funds from the WHO.
Scientists at the United Kingdom's Oxford University have started the process of developing an experimental vaccine and hope to have a million doses ready by September.