June 4 (UPI) -- A global summit to raise more than $7 billion to fund vaccinations in low-income nations began Thursday with a large contribution from the European Union.
The summit, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, benefits Gavi, a global vaccine alliance established in 1999 with a $750 million donation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and support from the World Health Organization.
Thursday's fundraiser will add funding to Gavi's four-year budget, starting in 2021, and intends to help immunize 300 million children in middle- and low-income nations against a range of diseases. Organizers also hope to fund vaccine stockpiles to shield against disease in he future like malaria and yellow fever.
Providing routine vaccinations has become more difficult and expensive as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to disruptions in medical supply chains and other factors, Gavi said.
Should a COVID-19 vaccine be developed, its global distribution would be covered by the programs.
The EU began the event Thursday by announcing it will donate $337 million.
"Vaccines can only save lives if everyone who needs them can access them, especially in the most vulnerable communities and regions of the world," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. "This is why Gavi's work is so important."
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang later said Beijing will contribute $20 million.