GENEVA, Switzerland — Along with other tried and tested public health measures, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) told journalists on Monday that “there is now real hope” that vaccines will play an essential part in helping end the COVID pandemic.
“With the latest positive news from vaccine trials, the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter”, said director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated”.
Setting new standards
Noting that no vaccine in history has been developed as rapidly, the WHO chief remarked that the scientific community had set “a new standard for vaccine development” and now the international community must set “a new standard for access”.
“The urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly”, he spelled out, warning of a real risk that the poorest, and most vulnerable will be “trampled in the stampede” to get innoculated.
Tedros explained that it was against this backdrop that WHO and its partners had established the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator back in April.
“The ACT Accelerator has supported the fastest, most coordinated and successful global effort in history to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics”, he attested.
He said that currently 50 diagnostics are under evaluation; rapid antigen diagnostics are now available for low and middle income countries; while life-saving treatments are being rolled out and new medicines tested.
Moreover, 187 countries are taking part in the COVAX facility, to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, “ensuring the best possible prices, volumes and timing for all countries”, he said.
Despite the excellent progress, Tedros said that “only a fundamental change in funding and approach will realize the full promise of the ACT Accelerator”.
He revealed that $4.3 billion is still needed to support mass procurement and delivery, tests and treatments this year and another $23.8 billion would will be required in 2021.
“This isn’t charity, it’s the fastest and smartest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recovery”, he stressed.
According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, they could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost $9 trillion by the end of 2025.
“The real question is not whether the world can afford to share vaccines and other tools; it’s whether it can afford not to”, stated the WHO chief.