UN Chief Joins World Leaders in Calling for Investment to End Pandemic This Year

UN Chief Joins World Leaders in Calling for Investment to End Pandemic This Year

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday joined world leaders in calling for urgent investment to end the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The pandemic could be defeated this year but "only if vaccines, tests and treatments are made available to all people," the UN chief said, Xinhua news agency reported.

The top UN official was among some world leaders calling for 23 billion US dollars to support the ACT-Accelerator, the landmark collaboration that makes these goods accessible to everyone globally.

"Vaccine inequity is the biggest moral failure of our times - and people are paying the price," said Guterres, underlining the urgency to act now.

"Until and unless we can ensure access to these tools, the pandemic will not go away, and the sense of insecurity of people will only deepen."

The ACT-Accelerator was established in April 2020, just weeks after the pandemic was declared, to speed up development and access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines. The global vaccine solidarity initiative COVAX is one of its four pillars.

The partnership brings together governments, scientists, philanthropists, businesses, civil society and global health organizations such as GAVI, the vaccine alliance; the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the UN's health agency, World Health Organization (WHO).

The campaign launched on Wednesday aims to meet a 16 billion dollar financing gap, and nearly 7 billion dollars for in-country delivery costs, in the bid to end the pandemic as a global emergency this year.

The co-chairs of the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council, which provides high-level political leadership to advocate for resource mobilization, recently wrote to more than 50 rich countries to encourage "fair share" contributions.

The financing framework is calculated on the size of their national economies and what they would gain from a faster global economic and trade recovery.

As Guterres put it: "If we want to ensure vaccinations for everyone to end this pandemic, we must first inject fairness into the system."

The funding will help to curb coronavirus transmission, break the cycle of variants, relieve overburdened health workers and systems, and save lives, world leaders said, warning that with every month of delay, the global economy stands to lose almost four times the investment the ACT-Accelerator needs.

Financing will be used to procure and provide lifesaving tools, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, to low and middle-income countries.

It will support measures that include driving vaccine rollouts, creating a Pandemic Vaccine Pool of 600 million doses, purchasing 700 million tests, procuring treatments for 120 million patients, and 100 percent of the oxygen needs of low-income countries.

"The longer inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments persists, the longer the pandemic will persist," said President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, who co-chairs the Facilitation Council together with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store.

The UN and partners continue to warn against the dangers of inequity three years into the pandemic.

Although more than 4.7 billion COVID-19 tests have been administered globally so far, WHO report only around 22 million, a paltry 0.4 percent, were administered in low-income countries.

Furthermore, only 10 percent of people in these nations have received at least one vaccine dose.

Since its inception, the ACT-Accelerator has funded vital research and development of new therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics, and delivered over a billion vaccine doses through COVAX, among other achievements.

The mechanism has an overall budget of 23.4 billion dollars and donors are urged to contribute 16.8 billion dollars. They have already pledged 814 million dollars, leaving the 16 billion dollars funding gap. It is expected that the remaining 6.5 billion dollars will be self-financed by middle-income countries.

Separate to the budget, another 6.8 billion dollars is required for in-country delivery of vaccines and diagnostics.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has underlined the urgent need to ensure tests, treatments and vaccines are distributed equitably globally.

"If higher-income countries pay their fair share of the ACT-Accelerator costs, the partnership can support low and middle-income countries to overcome low COVID-19 vaccination levels, weak testing, and medicine shortages," he said.

"Science gave us the tools to fight COVID-19; if they are shared globally in solidarity, we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency this year."

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