Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the first Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting, in New York on 10 September:
The COVID-19 pandemic continues its surge around the world. The number one global security threat in our world today is the virus. It is our common enemy. Yet, we still continue to struggle to collectively make all the decisions and devote all the resources we need to defeat it.
But, it’s not too late. We must start immediately by massively expanding new and existing tools that can rapidly respond to new cases and provide vital treatment to suppress transmission and save lives, especially over the next 12 months.
I know many pin their hopes on a vaccine — but let’s be clear: There is no panacea in a pandemic. A vaccine alone cannot solve this crisis; certainly not in the near term.
But, starting now, a vaccine must be seen as a global public good, available and affordable for all, because COVID-19 respects no borders. And we must fully support efforts designed to speed up the development and availability of new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines — and ensure equitable global access and allocation.
We have just such a mechanism in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator — or ACT-Accelerator — a ground-breaking collaboration that has gathered the World Health Organization (WHO) and a remarkable group of key international actors.
When I joined the launch of the ACT-Accelerator four months ago, we presented a vision to ensure that the world would emerge from this crisis together, where the formidable capacities of the world’s leading global health agencies would be deployed in the battle against COVID-19. And today, we have a proof that this vision is feasible.
During this start-up phase, the ACT-Accelerator core partners have worked tirelessly to demonstrate that this unique model of cooperation works. They have proven that game-changing rapid diagnostics are possible; they have started rolling out to all countries the only proven therapy for severe COVID-19 disease; they have built a broad, dynamic vaccine portfolio and established a COVAX Vaccines Facility encompassing 170 countries. And — through the work led by WHO — it has established an equitable allocation framework for the roll-out of these tools.
The ACT-Accelerator is the global solution we are looking for. Now we need to make important political choices if the world is to reap its promise.
First, we need a quantum leap in funding to increase the chances of a global solution to get the world moving, working and prospering again. The $3 billion contributed to date has been critical as seed funding for the start-up phase of the ACT-Accelerator. But, we now need $35 billion more to go, from “start-up” to “scale up and impact”.
There is real urgency in these numbers. Without an infusion of $15 billion over the next three months, beginning immediately, we will lose the window of opportunity to further advance research, build stocks in parallel with licensing, start procuring and delivering the new diagnostics and therapeutics, and help countries prepare to optimize the new vaccines when they arrive.
I call on this Facilitation Council to look closely at the progress to date and the strong economic case for the ACT-Accelerator, and commit to addressing the financing and equitable distribution of what will initially be very scarce tools.
And allow me to say something of these prepared interventions: We will never find this money in traditional humanitarian and official development assistance (ODA) budgets. Donors must go deep into the exceptional funds that they have approved to address the COVID-19 in all its dimensions. Without this exceptional mobilization of resources, the amounts I mentioned will never be reached — and it is essential that they are reached.
And we must also overcome — and this is linked to the possible lack of funding — the worrying trend of numerous parallel initiatives and nationally focused efforts, that would not only be undermining an effective global response, it would be self-defeating
It is in the best interest of all countries to ensure equitable access to new vaccines. As it was already said, no one and no country will be safe until everybody is safe. That is how we maximize our chances to stop this pandemic as rapidly as possible.
Third, we need greater trust. For any vaccine to work, the majority of men, women and children across the globe need to be willing to accept it. Yet, mistrust in vaccines is on the rise around the world. We have seen alarming reports of large segments of the population in some countries indicating their reluctance or even refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine. This is fuelling vaccine hesitancy and igniting wild conspiracy theories.
To address public concerns, the United Nations is addressing this as part of our “Verified” initiative by delivering science-based information on the COVID-19 vaccines in human terms.
Together with WHO, GAVI [Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization], the Global Fund and other global health agencies, we will work with major social media platforms to halt deadly misinformation. And we will reach out to media partners, civil society and other influencers to deliver content that builds confidence in the safety and effectiveness of a future COVID-19 vaccine.
Our global interconnectedness requires global solutions. Either we stand together, or we will be doomed and fall apart. We need unity and solidarity like never before. Thank you.