World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled a new strategy that calls for $23.4 billion to combat inequities in accessing COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments, as cases of the disease mount globally for the first time in two months.
The funding for the Access to COVID Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the UN-backed global initiative to end the pandemic, is critical to prevent some five million additional potential deaths, as well as $5.3 trillion in global economic losses.
The strategic plan and budget for the mechanism, a partnership of leading global health agencies established last April, will help the most at-risk countries to secure and deploy these tools between now and September 2022.
According to WHO Director-General Mr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, its vaccine pillar like the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), the ACT Accelerator has so far delivered 425 million doses to 144 countries alone. Nearly 130 million tests, as well as the increased supply of oxygen, personal protective equipment (PPE), and treatments, have also been distributed.
“But the ACT Accelerator has so far been prevented from fulfilling its potential by severe supply and financing constraints. The high transmissibility of the Delta variant has reinforced what we have been saying since we set up the ACT Accelerator: vaccines alone will not end the pandemic. We need all tools, vaccines, tests, treatments, PPE and public health measures, to fight COVID-19 and save lives and livelihoods now.”
Mr. Tedros warned that until the pandemic is contained globally, the virus will mutate and propagate. The recent increase of COVID-19 cases around the world serves as a warning that the pandemic is far from over. Numbers are increasing for the first time in two months, largely due to an ongoing rise in Europe, which outweighs declines elsewhere.
The pandemic persists mainly because of the uneven distribution of COVID-19 tools across the globe, noted Mr. Tedros.
Mr. Tedros appealed to the world’s leading industrial nations ahead of the G20 summit in Rome, stating that they “have the potential to make the political and financial commitments that are required to end this pandemic and prevent future crises.”
WHO urged leaders to fully fund the ACT Accelerator and to support the creation of a legally-binding global treaty on pandemic preparedness and response. It also called for the creation of a Health Threats Financing Board, supported by a Financial Intermediary Fund, hosted by the World Bank.