ONLY a vaccine will enable the world to defeat the pandemic in a “humanity against the virus” battle, Boris Johnson has told world leaders.

In an online speech to the Coronavirus Global Response International Pledging Conference, which is seeking to raise £6 billion to find a vaccine, the Prime Minister said each country fighting Covid-19 was taking extraordinary steps, including sweeping social restrictions, to form a human shield around their health systems.

“But the truth is that none of us can succeed alone,” declared Mr Johnson.

“To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine.”

He went on: “The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed.”

The PM, who co-hosted the summit, pointed out how the UK was the biggest donor to the efforts of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to find a vaccine.

It had committed up to £744 million for the global response to coronavirus, including a pledge of £388m for the vital research and development of vaccines, treatments and tests.

Plus, through GAVI, the global vaccine alliance, Britain was also helping the world’s poorest countries cope with the virus. On June 4, the UK would be hosting the GAVI Global Vaccine Summit.

“When we do find a vaccine,” said Mr Johnson, “it’s vital that we are able to distribute it to everyone who needs it. Countries and pharmaceutical companies will need to work together with an approach that defies the usual ways of operating.

“We’ll need innovative partnerships like the one between AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. And we’ll need a truly global effort because no one country, and no one pharmaceutical company, will be able to do this alone,” he insisted.

The PM added: “The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. It’s humanity against the virus.

“We are in this together and together we will prevail.”

Emmanuel Macron, the French President, insisted that when a vaccine was ready, it had to be made available to everyone as a public good.

“Of course, those who bring it about will be duly remunerated but access will be given worldwide via the organisations selected and sound public and private structures that we will put behind this,” he argued.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President, opened the vaccine pledging event, saying it would mark a "turning point in our fight against the coronavirus".

She explained: "Because today the world is coming together. The partners are many, the goal is one: to defeat this virus.

"We need to develop, produce and deploy them to every single corner of the world and we must ensure they're available and affordable for all and this is why we must all chip in to finance this truly global endeavour."

However, there was deep concern that neither the US nor China agreed to take part in the vaccine summit.

When asked if the PM was disappointed, No 10 pointed out how this was the first event in a long process and underlined how countries had to work together in an international effort to find a vaccine.