UN chief calls on more countries to fund global COVID-19 vaccine effort

Samples are tested by scientists at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute as the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus continues. — Courtesy photo
Samples are tested by scientists at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute as the development of a vaccine against the coronavirus continues. — Courtesy photo

NEWE YORK — UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday called for all nations to provide further urgently needed funds — the equivalent of the total spent on cigarettes worldwide every two weeks — on behalf of global COVID-19 vaccine efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere, gets protection from the virus.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools — the ACT-Accelerator — along with its COVAX Facility, is a groundbreaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

Launched at the end of April 2020, the ACT-Accelerator has secured $3 billion, critical for its start-up, but it needs a further $35 billion, including an “immediate infusion” of $15 billion, Guterres said at a high-level event to mobilize support for the initiative.

“These resources are crucial now to avoid losing the window of opportunity for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, to boost research, and to help countries prepare to optimize the new vaccines when they arrive.”

Any delay would further widen already vast inequalities, he warned.

The UN chief outlined clearly that to reach that amount, donors’ paying in through official development assistance budgets, will not be sufficient.

“We need to think bigger. It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programs. By helping others, they will help themselves”, Guterres said.

The coronavirus pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month and has destroyed around 500 million jobs so far.

The secretary-general called on developed countries — which have devoted many trillions of dollars to respond to the socio-economic impacts of the crisis in their own countries — to “invest a small fraction of that, to stop the spread of the disease everywhere.”

“I call on all countries and partners to significantly step up in the next three months to provide much needed new and additional resources and to mobilize all partners and to put everyone behind a global response to deliver. Solidarity is self-interest,” he stressed.

“Grasping that 21st-century truth is essential to end this crisis and emerge safer, smarter, and stronger together,” he said, wrapping up his remarks.

Amid the devastation of COVID-19, science is offering solutions, in the form of new tests, therapeutics, and — hopefully — vaccines, said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the UN World Health Organization (WHO), speaking alongside the secretary-general.

Science and solutions are, however, ineffective without solidarity, Tedros added.

The head of WHO explained that the ACT-Accelerator has already delivered “impressive results” in the form of making available 120 million new rapid tests for low- and middle-income countries and securing courses of dexamethasone. — UN news