Global ACT Accelerator initiative set up to accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines faces $35 billion funding gap

Chief White House Correspondent for | + posts

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

Chief White House Correspondent for | + posts

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

The ACT Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines, is facing a $35 billion funding gap, the World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Thursday.

COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, and aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.

It is a clever initiative that allows countries and scientists around the world to work together for a common goal rather than pursue individualistic ones that may not be very effective. It also pulls resources together, allowing scientists with good ideas but no money to thrive.

For the initiative to work, countries around the world have to fund it. However, only about 10 percent of fundings needed have been received so far, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, revealed at his regular press briefing from Geneva on Thursday.

“The ACT Accelerator will not be able to deliver on its goals without a significant increase in funding; it still faces a funding gap of 35 billion US dollars,” Tedros said.

“Today, the Facilitation Council of the ACT Accelerator met for the first time to provide political leadership and advocacy, and to mobilize additional resources. An ACT Accelerator high-level event at the United Nations General Assembly will take place on 30 September,” he added.

At the Facilitation Council of the ACT Accelerator on Thursday, South Africa and the Kingdom of Norway were elected to co-chair the newly established Council.

Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator simply known as ACT Accelerator or ACT-A was launched on April 24, 2020, and provided with political and financial support through global pledging events of May 4, and June 27.

It has already established a dynamic portfolio of vaccine candidates, launched a global facility to optimize vaccine development and use, and begun rollout of the first proven therapy for severe diseases.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday told world leaders Africans must not be left out when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines development and distribution.

“It is essential that African countries benefit from the vaccines being developed,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the ACT-Accelerator.

Mr. Ramaphosa called on countries around the world to support and fund the ACT-Accelerator, insisting that Africans must just be the recipients of vaccines, but must take full part in their developments.

“The clinical testing of the vaccines needs to include African populations to ensure that the vaccines are appropriate for Africans. 

“We cannot achieve universal health coverage when the COVID-19 vaccine is available only to countries that are well resourced in terms of research, manufacturing, distribution and service,” Ramaphosa told the inaugural meeting of the Facilitation Council of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator that had in attendance Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr António Guterres, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, President of the European Commission, Dr Ursula von der Leyen, Prime Minister of Norway and Co-Chair of the Facilitation Council, Ms Erna Solberg, Chair of NEPAD and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

He said:  “As long as someone in the world has the new coronavirus, however remote they may be, we are all at risk from the resurgence of COVID-19. 

“We therefore need to move swiftly to ensure everyone has access to a vaccine at the same time. 

“Countries must together support current global initiatives to fund COVID-19 vaccines. 

“We should use all available infrastructure to conduct research to find safe and effective vaccines. 

“The efforts by WHO to enable collaboration among scientists to conduct clinical trials is very welcome. 

“We all need to support these global efforts because they are likely to massify the availability of vaccines that are appropriate for specific locations and populations. 

“We must also incentivise vaccine development, especially for pharmaceutical companies. They may be concerned that it will not be profitable. 

“As some have already done, governments may need to subsidize the development of vaccines as an incentive to ensure fast and adequate production. 

“As a global community, we must encourage people to participate in safe clinical trials of different vaccines. 

“The ACT-Accelerator is vital to the achievement of these goals. 

“It offers us the requisite tools at the speed and scale needed and an equitable mechanism to distribute them.

“Now that it is a proven, functioning mechanism, we must waste no time in rallying to support it with the political and, crucially, the financial resources it needs to succeed. 

“As South Africa and on behalf of the African Union, we look forward to this cooperation and working with all States and partners to achieve our collective objectives.”

No disease in history has seen such rapid development in research. The world’s ambition to develop these tools as fast as possible must be matched by its ambition to ensure as many people as possible have access to them.Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. Every 40 seconds, someone somewhere dies by suicide. Like ending the pandemic, the key to preventing suicide is solidarity.

Simon Ateba

Simon Ateba is Chief White House Correspondent for Today News Africa. Simon covers President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, the U.S. government, the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other financial and international institutions in Washington D.C. and New York City.

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