Donors pledge $1 billion to Act Accelerator initiative to bolster access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines but $35 billion still needed

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Donors have pledged $1 billion to the World Health Organization’s Act Accelerator initiative to bolster access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines around the world, the UN said in a statement on Wednesday.

The pledges have come from governments, international organizations, the civil society and the private sector to support a unified approach against the deadly virus.

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Health experts say with resources being pulled together and scientists around the world working as a team, the response to the pandemic is faster and more effective.

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The ACT-Accelerator, co-launched by the World Health Organization, European Commission, France and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation five months ago, needs an additional US$35 billion to realize its goals of producing 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests.

“The new commitments to the initiative are welcome and will be leveraged to catalyze further funding to continue the ACT-Accelerator’s groundbreaking work. Most urgently, the ACT-Accelerator requires US$15 billion to support immediate capacity-building—for research and development, manufacturing, procurement and delivery systems—by the end of the year,” the UN statement said.

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The aim is to accelerate the development, production, and equitable delivery of COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. 

Recent Commitments at a Glance:

– United Kingdom – £571m (US$ 732m) for COVAX pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools- (ACT) Accelerator, of which up to £500m (US$ 641m) is to support low- and middle-income countries. This includes a commitment to match £1 for every US$ 4 committed by others up to £250m (US$ 321m).

– Canada – CAD 440m (US$ 332m) for the COVAX pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, of which CAD 220 (US$ 166m) is to support low & middle income countries

– Germany – EUR 100m (US$ 117m) for the COVAX pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, all of which is to support low and middle income countries

– Sweden – US$ 10m for the COVAX pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, all of which is to support low and middle income countries

– World Bank – US$ 12 billion to support developing countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available (to be ratified by their shareholders)

– A coalition of 16 pharmaceutical companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signed an agreement to cooperate on vaccine manufacturing and to scale up production

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING

Speaking at the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly to mobilize support for the ACT-Accelerator, UN Secretary-General António Guterres commended on the “extraordinary international effort to address a human crisis like no other in our lifetimes,” adding that more efforts must be made to further “deepen” the remarkable progress so far.

“It is in every country’s national and economic self-interest to work together to massively expand access to tests and treatments, and to support a vaccine as a global public good—a “people’s vaccine” available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.”

”The ACT-Accelerator—including its COVAX Facility—is the vehicle to get us there. Investing in the ACT-Accelerator will accelerate every country’s own recovery,” said Mr. Guterres who co-hosted the event with the United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, and the Director-General of World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We have a duty to ensure vaccines, treatments and tests for COVID-19 are available to all—stopping the global spread of the pandemic protects the British people and will put humanity on the road to recovery. Collaboration through the ACT-Accelerator is critical to promoting development, production and access for all countries,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The United Kingdom recently committed up to £571m (approximately US$ 732m) for COVAX. The commitment includes up to £500m for the Gavi Advanced Market Commitment for COVID-19 (COVAX AMC) vaccines—a financing instrument that incentivizes vaccine manufacturers to produce sufficient COVID-19 vaccines to ensure access for developing countries.

On Wednesday, the UK Foreign Secretary called for more support, pledging that this £500m commitment would include £1 (IS$ 1.29) in matched funding for every US$4 committed by others for up to £250m (approximately US$ 321m).

Germany, Canada and Sweden have also made new commitments to the COVAX AMC of Euro 100 million, CAD$ 220 million and US$ 10 million respectively. These are eligible for matching with today’s UK matching commitment.

”Science is giving us solutions, in the form of new tests, therapeutics and­—hopefully—a vaccine. But science and solutions will be ineffective without solidarity,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “I am grateful for the generous financial commitments made today, but we still have a significant funding gap to close. Fully financing the ACT Accelerator will help to control the pandemic, restore confidence and stimulate the global recovery. Frankly, this is not a financial challenge, it’s a test of solidarity. This is a moment for saying no to nationalism and yes to our shared humanity. Because ultimately, the ACT Accelerator is not delivering merely vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics. It’s delivering something far more important—hope.”

“We must confront this health crisis as a global challenge, together in solidarity and cooperation with one another, working toward a global solution. We have to generate the key tests, treatments and vaccines that we all need, and make sure they are distributed equitably to people who most need them, regardless of where they live and whether their country is wealthy or not,” said South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, adding that large parts of the population especially in developing countries remain “vulnerable and marginalized during this pandemic.”

The UN said Wednesday’s event “highlighted the substantial results achieved by the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator initiative since its launch: the availability of 120 million affordable and high-quality rapid tests for low- and middle-income countries; a breakthrough in trials with, and a rapid rollout of, Dexamethasone—the only drug found to make a significant difference to patient mortality; the creation of the COVAX Facility – the global mechanism to ensure equitable access to eventual COVID-19 vaccines regardless of income -comprising 168 economies and the largest and most diverse vaccine portfolio in the world, with nine candidate vaccines under evaluation, eight of them in clinical trials. 

“In another significant show of support, a coalition of 16 pharmaceutical companies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation signed an agreement to cooperate on vaccine manufacturing and to scale up production at an unprecedented speed, ensuring that approved vaccines are more broadly accessible and distributed as early as possible.” 

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said:

“One thing I’ve learned studying the history of pandemics is that they create a surprising dynamic when it comes to self-interest and altruism. Pandemics are rare cases where a country’s instinct to help itself is tightly aligned with its instinct to help others. The self-interested thing and the altruistic thing–making sure poor nations have access to vaccines–are one and the same.”

“A number of countries, most recently the United Kingdom and Canada, are good models for what other wealthy nations should do. They have donated enough money for COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the ACT-Accelerator, to procure, probably, hundreds of millions of vaccine doses for poor countries. But more will be needed and I hope wealthy nations will continue to be generous.” 

The World Bank unveiled plans this week for a significant financial commitment to support developing countries to purchase COVID-19 vaccines as soon as they are available.

World Bank President David Malpass said that once the plans are ratified by stakeholders, “having up to US$ 12 billion available in finance will be a game changer because once a safe and effective vaccine is available, it will allow people to resume their lives with confidence.”

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba covers the White House, the U.S. government, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions for Today News Africa in Washington D.C. Simon can be reached on simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

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