World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday said the positive results from coronavirus vaccine trials mean that people can now start thinking about the end of the pandemic. However, he warned rich countries not to take advantage of poor and marginalised ones.
“With positive results in recent weeks from vaccine trials, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing steadily brighter,” Tedros said during his address at the United Nations General Assembly special session. “But let me be clear: we simply cannot accept a world in which the poor and marginalized are trampled by the rich and powerful in the stampede for vaccines.”
The health body chief called for equitably sharing global public goods so that no country is left behind. “The task of narrowing inequalities does not start after the pandemic,” he said. “It must be part and parcel of the response.”
Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 6.58 crore people and killed over 15.18 lakh, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Over 4.23 crore people have recovered from the infection.
Without naming any country, Tedros said that some have not responded equally to the global health crisis, while some were not affected by it equally. He said that the success of the countries that prevented the spread of the coronavirus was not a geographical fluke. “These countries have proven that with science, solidarity and sacrifice, this virus can be tamed,” the WHO chief said, adding that the infection survives and spreads “where science is drowned out by conspiracy theories”.
Tedros also laid out four key areas where the United Nations would need to work to end the pandemic and build a post-coronavirus world. He called for investing in vaccines, taking steps to be ready to prevent the next pandemic and promote health as the foundation of peace and prosperity and multilateralism to safeguard our common future.
He said that the WHO established Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT Accelerator, for developing vaccines and allocate and deliver them fairly.
“But unless the ACT Accelerator is fully funded, it is in danger of becoming no more than a noble gesture,” the WHO chief said. “The ACT Accelerator faces an immediate funding gap of 4.3 billion US dollars to lay the groundwork for the mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. A further 23.9 billion dollars will be needed next year.”
On preparedness for the next vaccine, Tedros pointed out that many countries failed to positively respond to outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome–related coronavirus, Swine Flu and other infectious diseases. “Now all countries must develop that same ‘muscle memory’ and invest in the measures that will predict, prevent, control and mitigate the next crisis,” he said.