WHO Issues Plea for US $35 Billion To Fast-Track COVID-19 Vaccines As United Nations General Assembly Convenes Virtually
Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at a virtual event just ahead of the opening of the 75th UNGA

As the 75th United Nations General Assembly opened in an unprecedented virtual session on 15 September, WHO issued a plea to the world’s leaders for funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic – saying that US$ 35 billion is needed to fast-track development, procurement and distribution of 2 billion vaccine doses, treatments and tests over the coming year.

The call by WHO came on the heels of a pre-session vote last week by the General Assembly on an “omnibus” bill pledging to advance multilateral cooperation in the quest for solutions to the global health crisis and reaffirming WHO’s leadership role.

However WHO leaders stressed that countries need to put their money on the table to fulfill those commitments.

“Pooling investments globally, the ACT-Accelerator provides a chance for all countries to access a greater number of tools more quickly, sharing the risks and costs together.

The ACT-Accelerator needs US$35 billion to fast-track the development, procurement and distribution of 2 billion vaccine doses, 245 million treatments and 500 million tests over the next year,” said a WHO statement, issued as the UN GA was convening.

The WHO framed the call for funds as part of a three-pronged message to the GA, including a call to world leaders to support the ACT-Accelerator mechanism for pooling and more equitable distribution of COVID-19 medicines, tests and vaccines; maintain the momentum on sustainable development goals, despite COVID threats, and invest more in preparing for the next pandemic now.

“According to a recent WHO survey, 90% of countries are experiencing disruptions to essential health services due to the pandemic. The most frequently disrupted areas reported include routine immunization, non-communicable diseases diagnosis and treatment, family planning and contraception, treatment for mental health disorders, and cancer diagnosis and treatment,” said the WHO statement.  “COVID-19 offers a stark reminder of why we need to invest in stronger health and data systems, rooted in primary healthcare, to achieve universal health coverage and to meet the health-related targets of the SDGs.”

In terms of preparing for the next pandemic, WHO pointed to the findings of a report issued on Monday by the UN-sponsored Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, noted that it would take some 500 years to spend as much on preparedness as the world is losing economically as a result of COVID-19.  The report “World in Disorder” also noted that it had warned last year of the likelihood a pandemic could erupt, killing millions and disrupting economies, but nothing was done.

Said the WHO statement, “The investment needed in a global solution aimed at equitable access pales in comparison to the economic impacts of COVID-19 and the domestic stimulus packages designed to keep economies afloat.”

The first high level meeting of the 75th UN General Assembly will convene next Tuesday, 22 September 2020, during New York City’s 2020 Climate Week.

Image Credits: UN/Loey Felipe.

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