WHO Issues Urgent Appeal For US $11.5 Billion For COVID Tests, Treatments, and Vaccines
The WHO-led ACT-Accelerator appeals for US $11.5 billion towards vaccines, testing, and much needed PPE.

With more COVID-19 cases reported in the first half of 2021 than in the whole of 2020, despite high vaccination rates in some countries, the WHO-led Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator) has mounted a US $11.5 billion appeal to stem the surge of dangerous variants and save lives. 

Called the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response (RADAR), the first US $7.7 appeal, if funded, would enable ACT-Accelerator to urgently: scale up testing and surveillance to protect against new variants; address acute oxygen needs to save lives; rollout COVID-19 tools needed for effective deployment of vaccines; and protect frontline healthcare workers with necessary PPE. 

The ACT-Accelerator is a global umbrella mechanism for collecting and distributing tests and treatments through the vaccine facility COVAX.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called investment for RADAR “urgently needed.” 

“This investment is a tiny portion of the amount governments are spending to deal with COVID-19 and makes ethical, economic and epidemiological sense. If these funds aren’t made available now to stop the transmission of Delta in the most vulnerable countries, we will undoubtedly all pay the consequences later in the year.”

In addition to the US$ 7.7 billion appeal, there is an opportunity to reserve a supply of 760 million doses of vaccines in the fourth quarter of 2021, ensuring a continued supply of doses for delivery by COVAX in 2022. 

On delivery, these 760 million doses will cost an additional US $3.8 billion, though WHO did not specify which vaccines were to be reserved. 

Low- and middle-income countries lag behind in vaccinations 

As of July 7, whereas more than half of individuals (51%) have received at least one dose in high-income countries (HICs), only 1% of the population in LICs, 14% in LMICs, and 31% in upper middle-income countries (UMICs) have received at least one dose.

WHO’s appeal has highlighted the inadequate testing and low vaccination rates that has exacerbated disease transmission, with low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) lagging significantly behind the rest of the world when it comes to vaccination.

So far only 14% of the population in LMICS have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while more than half of individuals (51%) in high-income countries have been vaccinated at least once. 

Only 1% of individuals in low-income countries have been vaccinated.

If these trends continue, LMICs are unlikely to meet vaccination targets by the end of the year. 

Inequity in vaccine distribution – “West’s Failure” 

Such inequities in vaccine distribution have been called a “shocking symbol of the west’s failure to honor its promise”, by former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in an op-ed published today in The Guardian

“Vaccine nationalism – and Europe’s neocolonial approach to global health – is dividing the world into rich and protected people, who live, and those who are poor, unprotected and at risk of dying.”

This vaccine nationalism is evident as Brown points out that 10 million single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccines produced in South Africa will be exported to Europe, at a time when Africa is grappling with its deadliest wave of COVID-19 seen to date. 

Even though 77.3 million doses have been administered across Africa’s population, this number pales in comparison to the 496 million vaccines that have been administered across the European Union. 

Europe remains the continent with the highest coverage in vaccine distribution (40%), while Africa is the lowest (2%).

At a time when wealthy countries, such as the US, Israel, and Germany, have already begun to authorize or administer booster shots for immunocompromised or elderly populations, Brown called for “global coordination”, which has so far been absent among G7 and G20 leaders. 

This means that countries with excess supply of vaccines should release them to Africa, and provide at least US $50 billion in financial support through COVAX. 

“G7 leaders”, said Brown, “must now step in to ensure the supplies go where they are need most.” 

He added that ensuring vaccines to African populations is “not just an imperative for Africa. It’s all in our enlightened self-interest.” 

“The biggest threat we all face is COVID spreading and mutating uninhibited in unvaccinated countries.”

Image Credits: Gavi , KFF.

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