Until we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere
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Dr Tedros Adhanom
I would like to begin by welcoming the United States of America to the ACT Accelerator. We’re glad to have your support and involvement, and we look forward to your partnership in ensuring that all countries enjoy equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics against Covid-19.
We are at a critical juncture in our fight against the pandemic.
Through a monumental, global effort, we now have an array of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics that can help us bring this virus under control. But we face significant challenges.
International collaboration is increasingly fragmented, and inequities are increasing. More than 90% of countries now rolling out vaccines are wealthy. Seventy-five percent of the 130 million deployed doses have been in only ten countries. Meanwhile, almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, have yet to administer a single dose.
Many of these countries are also struggling to secure the resources for testing, personal protective equipment, oxygen, and medicines. The ACT Accelerator and Covax Facility were created to increase equity. But with every passing day, that goal is at risk.
Countries are ready to go; Covax is ready to go, but adequate supplies of vaccines aren’t there early enough. The longer the Covid-19 virus circulates, the more it can mutate, potentially making current tests, treatments and vaccines less effective.
We have already seen several variants emerge that appear to be significantly more transmissible. And as long as the pandemic drags on, so will the economic impacts. Until we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere. This is not an empty slogan, it is a hard reality.
WHO and our partners in the ACT Accelerator have laid the groundwork. We have created a dose-sharing mechanism, set up rapid processes for the emergency use listing, set up indemnification and no-fault compensation mechanisms and completed readiness assessments in almost all AMC countries.
But, I see three major threats to the success of the ACT Accelerator and Covax, which need our urgent attention.
First, we must ensure the full financing of the ACT Accelerator and Covax. We are grateful for the generous contributions to date, but we still have a long way to go. The financing gap for the ACT Accelerator stands at more than $27 billion ( about R397.6 billion) for 2021.
The longer this gap goes unmet, the harder it becomes to understand why, given this is a tiny fraction of the trillions of dollars that have been mobilised for stimulus packages in G20 countries.
We call on OECD and DAC countries to commit a proportion of stimulus financing to close the funding gap, and to take measures to unlock capital in multilateral development banks.
Second, we call on all countries to respect Covax contracts and not compete with them. Some countries continue to sign bilateral deals, while other countries have nothing. We have issued a challenge to ensure that vaccination of health workers is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of the year.
We have 60 days left. We call on countries to support the global roll-out of vaccines with dose-sharing and donations of vaccines, rather than to vaccinate lower-risk groups at home.
We have made the moral argument. We have made the economic argument. Now, emerging evidence that variants could make vaccines less effective is showing that unless we suppress this virus everywhere, we could end up back at square one.
And third, we need an urgent scale-up in manufacturing to increase the volume of vaccines.
That means innovative partnerships including tech transfer, licensing and other mechanisms to address production bottlenecks.
The success of this effort ultimately comes down to political decisions.
* Dr Tedros Adhanom is Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). This is an edited version of his opening statement at the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator 4th Facilitation Council.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.