January 20, 2021

WHO Director−General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID−19 − 23 November 2020

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  • There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the pandemic. 
  • The urgency with which vaccines have been developed must be matched by the same urgency to distribute them fairly. 
  • Only a fundamental change in funding and approach will realise the full promise of the ACT Accelerator. US $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments. A further US $23.8 billion will be needed next year. 
  • This isn’t charity, it’s the fastest and smartest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recovery..

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

With the latest positive news from vaccine trials, the light at the end of this long, dark tunnel is growing brighter.

There is now real hope that vaccines – in combination with other tried and tested public health measures – will help to end the pandemic.

The significance of this scientific achievement cannot be overstated.

No vaccines in history have been developed as rapidly as these. The scientific community has set a new standard for vaccine development.

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.

Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people.

But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.

That’s why in April, with support from multiple partners, WHO established the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator.

The ACT Accelerator has supported the fastest, most coordinated and successful global effort in history to develop vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.

More than 50 diagnostic tests are being evaluated and new rapid antigen diagnostics are being made available for low- and middle-income countries;

Life-saving dexamethasone treatments are being rolled out, and new medicines including monoclonal antibodies are being tested;

And 187 countries are now participating in the COVAX facility, to collaborate on the procurement and rollout of vaccines, ensuring the best possible prices, volumes and timing for all countries.

Importantly, COVAX is also analysing and supporting the systems for delivering vaccines and other COVID-19 tools, which have been mapped in 4 four regions.

And we’re rolling out other tools like the WHO Academy’s new augmented reality course for health workers on the correct use of personal protective equipment.

However, only a fundamental change in funding and approach will realise the full promise of the ACT Accelerator.

US $4.3 billion is needed immediately to support the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, tests and treatments. A further US $23.8 billion will be needed next year.

This isn’t charity, it’s the fastest and smartest way to end the pandemic and drive the global economic recovery.

The International Monetary Fund estimates that if medical solutions can be made available faster and more widely, it could lead to a cumulative increase in global income of almost US $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.

At the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Saturday, it was very encouraging to hear world leaders expressing their support for WHO and their commitment to the ACT Accelerator. Thank you!

In September, WHO established a Facilitation Council for the ACT Accelerator to leverage high-level political commitment to put the tools to defeat COVID-19 in the hands of the people who need them most.

Today we’re honoured to be joined by the two co-chairs of the ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council: His Excellency Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development of Norway; and Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa.

Minister Ulstein, welcome and you have the floor. Takk skal du ha.

[HIS EXCELLENCY MR DAG-INGE ULSTEIN MADE BRIEF REMARKS.]

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your support and commitment.

It’s now my honour to introduce Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa. Your Excellency, welcome, and you have the floor.

[HIS EXCELLENCY DR ZWELI MKHIZE MADE BRIEF REMARKS.]

Thank you, Your Excellency, for your support and commitment. I look forward to working with both of you in this critical period to realise the promise of the ACT Accelerator.

Thank you so much again.

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