WHO chief unveils plan for distributing coronavirus vaccine, urges cooperation

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

GENEVA — COVID-19 is an “unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response”, the chief of the UN health agency Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, unveiling a plan to have two billion doses of coronavirus vaccine available by the end of 2021.

Speaking at a press briefing with the international vaccine alliance GAVI, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the WHO chief said that commitment agreements have been secured and the COVAX Facility would begin signing contracts with vaccine manufacturers and developers.

The overarching goal of the COVAX Facility is to ensure that all countries have access to vaccines at the same time, and that priority is given to those most at risk, according to the WHO chief.

“The COVAX Facility will help to bring the pandemic under control, “save lives, accelerate the economic recovery and ensure that the race for vaccines is a shared endeavor, not a contest that only the rich can win”, he upheld. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery”.

So far, $3 billion have been invested in the ACT Accelerator — only a tenth of the required $35 for scale-up and impact.

Tedros stressed that $5 billion is needed “immediately to maintain momentum and stay on track for our ambitious timelines”.

“Our challenge now is to take the tremendous promise of the ACT Accelerator and COVAX to scale”, he said, adding, “we are at a critical point and we need a significant increase in countries’ political and financial commitment”.

The WHO chief cited estimates suggesting that once an effective vaccine has been distributed, and international travel and trade is fully restored, “the economic gains will far outweigh” the $38 billion investment required for the Accelerator.

“This isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do”, he spelled out.

“COVAX is now in business”, said Gavi CEO Seth Berkley. “Governments from every continent have chosen to work together, not only to secure vaccines for their own populations but also to help ensure that vaccines are available to the most vulnerable everywhere”.

“With the commitments, we’re announcing today for the COVAX Facility, as well as the historic partnership we are forging with industry, we now stand a far better chance of ending the acute phase of this pandemic, once safe, effective vaccines become available”.

Meanwhile, CEPI CEO Richard Hatchett called the international community’s coming together to tackle the pandemic “a landmark moment in the history of public health”.

“The global spread of COVID-19 means that it is only through equitable and simultaneous access to new lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that we can hope to end this pandemic,” he said. “Countries coming together in this way shows a unity of purpose and resolve to end the acute phase of this pandemic. Today, we have taken a great leap towards that goal, for the benefit of all”. — UN news


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