Coronavirus: US company poised to start COVID-19 vaccine safety test

The Food and Drug Administration has given approval to a second U.S. company to begin a small safety test of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

Inovio Pharmaceuticals says it has FDA permission for the study in 40 healthy volunteers in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri.

It's the first step to see if the vaccine is safe enough for a larger-scale test.

Even if the research goes well, it's expected to take more than a year before any vaccine is widely available.

Last month, another vaccine candidate became the first to begin safety studies in people in Seattle.

Meanwhile, more than 160 current and former global leaders and other VIPs are urging the world's 20 major industrialized nations to approve $8 billion in emergency global health funding to hasten the search for a vaccine, cure and treatment for COVID-19 and prevent a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to governments of the Group of 20 nations released Monday night, the leaders, ministers, top executives and scientists also called for $35 billion to support countries with weaker health systems and especially vulnerable populations, and at least $150 billion for developing countries to fight the medical and economic crisis.

They also urged the international community to waive this year's debt repayments from poorer countries, including $44 billion due from Africa.

While the communique from the G20 leaders' summit on March 26 recognized the gravity and urgency of the health and economic crisis sparked by the pandemic, the letter said "we now require urgent specific measures that can be agreed on with speed and at scale."

The group called for a global pledging conference, coordinated by a G20 task force, to commit resources to meet the emergency needs to tackle COVID-19.

The 165 signatories included former U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, 92 former presidents and prime ministers, the current prime ministers of Ethiopia and Bangladesh, Sierra Leone's president, philanthropist George Soros, former Irish president Mary Robinson who chairs The Elders, and Graca Machel, the group's deputy chair.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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