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An engineer checks tests on an experimental coronavirus vaccine inside the Cells Culture Room laboratory at the Sinovac Biotech facilities, in Beijing, on April 29, 2020.

NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Canada joined countries around the world Monday in an international pledging conference sponsored by the European Union to raise more than $11-billion for long-term COVID-19 vaccine research.

The goal is to make sure a viable vaccine becomes available and affordable for all countries, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

In his address, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau highlighted that Canada has already promised $850-million towards the international effort to fight the spread of the pandemic.

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When asked why Canada didn’t offer new money today, he said the event was “only the beginning” in the effort to find, manufacture and distribute a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

“We know that the safety of our own citizens depends on how we keep people around the world safe,” Trudeau said at the conference that took place online Monday.

“We need to take care of ourselves by taking care of the rest of the world.”

Trudeau also spoke with Bill and Melinda Gates last week about the need to support the event and to promote co-operation in developing and distributing a vaccine – and not just to those in wealthy countries.

The Gates Foundation is one of the leading international players in the search for a vaccine.

Last week, one of its senior executives said events such as the pledging conference are only the start of raising money for an effort that could cost upwards of $20-billion.

Like Canada, other countries are trying to develop a vaccine formula or treatment that will allow the world to stop the pandemic and return to a state of normalcy.

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But discovering a viable vaccine won’t be enough to prevent future outbreaks, said the head of the World Health Organization.

“The true measure of success will not only be how fast we can develop safe and effective tools – it will be how equally we can distribute them,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO.

“The potential for continued waves of infection of COVID-19 across the globe demands that every single person on the planet be protected from this disease.”

Countries are already working together to pool research and data to help in the development of a vaccine, and work has already begun to plot out a way to manufacture a viable formula on a worldwide scale, according to Canada’s health minister.

“It is almost like a race, but a race where you want everyone to be able to cross the finish line at once,” Health Minister Patty Hajdu said at a briefing Monday.

She said that while every country wants to find a way to vaccine their own citizens against the virus, everyone in the world will be at risk until a vaccine is made available worldwide.

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