A USAMRIID employee harvests samples of the virus that causes COVID-19 which will be used to develop models of infection, additional diagnostic tests, and medical countermeasures to include vaccines and therapeutics. (Photo by Erin Bolling/ Medical Research and Materiel Command)

Coronavirus Global Response: Access to COVID-19 Tools-Accelerator Facilitation Council Holds Inaugural Meeting

Today Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, and Dr Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, co-hosted the inaugural meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Facilitation Council. The meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa and H.E. Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway and included a keynote address from the UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The ACT-Accelerator is the proven, up-and-running, global collaboration accelerating the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

It was launched on 24 April 2020 by WHO with the European Commission, France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and supported by the UN Secretary-General and multiple Heads of Government, it is already delivering substantial returns; over 170 countries are engaged in the new COVID-19 Vaccine Facility and ten candidate vaccines are under evaluation, 9 of them in clinical trials, giving the largest and most diverse COVID-19 vaccine portfolio in the world.

Investing in the ACT-Accelerator’s multilateral approach increases the chance of success for all countries by giving access to a greater number of tools more quickly, as well as sharing the costs, and mitigating the risks of, R&D. A total of US$35 billion is still needed for the ACT-Accelerator to realise its goals of producing 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Nearly 5 000 lives are lost each day due to COVID-19 and the global economy is expected to contract by trillions of dollars this year. The case for investing to end the pandemic has never been stronger. The ACT-Accelerator is the best way to ensure equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, but at present is facing a financing gap of US$35 billion. Fully financing the ACT-Accelerator would shorten the pandemic and pay back this investment rapidly as the global economy recovers”.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Today’s launch of the Facilitation Council brings us closer to our global goal: access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments for everyone who needs them, anywhere. The EU will use all its convening power to help keep the world united against coronavirus. With the chairmanship of Norway and South Africa representing the global North and South, and the expertise of the WHO and our international partners, no country or region will be left behind in this fight.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “We now need US$35 billion more to go from set-up to scale and impact. There is a real urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of US$15 billion over the next 3 months, beginning immediately, we will lose the window of opportunity”.

H.E. Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said: “It is essential that humanity should have a sense that if and when a vaccine is developed, all countries, including my own continent, Africa, should benefit and not be left behind. Humanity requires that a vaccine should be regarded as a public good to benefit all. We cannot achieve universal health coverage when a COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well-resourced”.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda noted: “This is certainly one of the most important initiatives underway in the world today and perhaps ever”. He added “The difference between success and failure lies in building a robust public health infrastructure that can confront any health issue in a sustainable manner. Solid health systems combined with transformational partnerships such as this Accelerator are critical.”

H.E Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway said: “The ACT-Accelerator has already achieved impressive results. The world has shown that it is able to come together at a time of crisis. Norway will work tirelessly to ensure that common interests are established and followed, and that all countries and actors are listened to, so that we can maximize our result together.”

Today’s meeting was held at a crucial pivot point for the ACT-Accelerator as it reviewed an updated strategy and investment case for its scale-up phase. The document will be finalised by 17 September 2020 with publication soon after. The UN Secretary-General has confirmed a high-level event will take place on 30 September 2020 at the forthcoming General Assembly.

The role of the Council is to facilitate the work of the ACT-Accelerator through political leadership and advocacy for collective solutions in the global interest, and for the mobilization of additional resources.

Membership of the Council is made up of representatives of the European Commission, World Health Organization, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Nepal, Norway, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa. Spain, St Kitts and Nevis, Tuvala, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. In addition the Council includes the Wellcome Trust, the World Economic Forum and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the WHO Special Envoys for ACT-A, Civil Society representatives and industry representatives.

Read more at WHO

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