The World Health Organization’s global appeal for funding for coronavirus vaccines, treatments, diagnostics and equipment is still $16.8-billion short — almost half its total needs, the WHO said Tuesday. The funding shortfall comes amid a widening gap between rich and poor nations in their ability to fight the pandemic, with access to vaccines woefully uneven. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, sounding an alarm on the gap in access to resources, warned that the pandemic remained in a “very dangerous phase” more than 18 months in. “The countries that are now opening up their societies are those that have largely controlled the supply of life-saving of personal protective equipment, tests, oxygen, and especially vaccines,” he said Tuesday at a member state briefing on the WHO’s Access to Covid Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) programme. “Meanwhile, countries without access to sufficient supplies are facing waves of hospitalisations and death.” ACT-A is an internationally-coordinated scheme aimed at developing, producing, procuring and distributing weapons to combat the pandemic. It has received pledges of $17.7 billion for 2020-21, but needs the remainder by the end of this year. Some $8.1 billion of the remaining $16.8 billion is needed urgently, WHO said.