WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the 10th meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator Facilitation Council – 26 April 2022

Your Excellency Mathume Phaahla,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends

When the COVID-19 pandemic started more than two years ago, we responded by setting up the ACT Accelerator to help deliver vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics equitably.

Two years on, the unique partnership of governments, global health agencies, civil society and industry has delivered.

Our partnership has enabled 40 countries to begin their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

It has helped build the sequencing capacity in Southern Africa that first detected the Omicron variant.

And we negotiated unprecedented deals with the world’s largest oxygen suppliers to increase access in more than 120 low- and middle-income countries.

However, we know that the job is far from done.

Omicron’s sub-variants are driving rapid case increases in some countries and there’s always the possibility of a more deadly variant emerging.

We must work even harder to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

WHO’s goal to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country remains essential for bringing the pandemic under control, with priority given to health workers, older people and other at-risk groups.

1.8 billion people in low- and low- and middle-income countries have yet to receive their first dose.

New COVID-19 antiviral medicines also show huge promise.

On Friday, WHO recommended nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, also known as Paxlovid, for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high-risk of hospitalisation.

However, while this effective therapy is readily available in high-income countries, it’s virtually inaccessible in low- and middle-income countries.

ACT-A is working to facilitate access to antivirals and develop generic production over the long-term.

The rollout of new oral antivirals is further compounded by very low testing rates in low- and middle-income countries.

Testing rates have been declining at an alarming rate in the past four months, with low-income countries testing at an average of 2 tests per day per 100 thousand population.

This is over 100 times lower than the testing rate in high income countries.

If we are not able to detect the disease, we will not be able to treat it either.

The ACT Accelerator launched a new Strategic Plan and Budget in October 2021 – yet halfway through its current budget cycle, just over 10% has been funded.

With sufficient funding and support, we can work to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end, save lives, prevent suffering, and help get economies back on track.

We must ACT now and ACT together to end the COVID-19 emergency – for everyone, everywhere.

I now have the pleasure to welcome our Co-Host for the Council, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides from the European Commission.

The European region has been hard hit by COVID-19.

They are all too aware of the tragic the consequences of this virus. The European Commission played a key role in establishing the ACT Accelerator, and has remained a steadfast champion

Commissioner Kyriakides, thank you for joining us. You have the floor.

[Commissioner Kyriakides addressed the meeting]

Thank you, Commissioner, for your remarks, and for the leadership of the European Commission to support ACT-Accelerator.

As you know, South Africa and Norway have been true champions of the ACT Accelerator as co-chairs of this facilitation council.

It’s now my honour to welcome His Excellency Mathume Phaahla, Minister of Health of South Africa, on behalf of President Ramaphosa. Your Excellency, thank you so much for South Africa’s leadership and support, and thank you for joining us today. You have the floor.

[Minister Phaahla addressed the meeting]

Thank you, Your Excellency, and my deep respect and appreciation once again for South Africa’s continuing leadership and support.

We now have a video message from Her Excellency Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister for International Development of Norway, on behalf of Prime Minister Støre.

[Minister Tvinnereim addressed the meeting by video message]

My thanks once again to South Africa and Norway for their steadfast support and leadership. I will now hand over to the co-chairs of the technical team to moderate the meeting:

From South Africa, Olive Shisana, the President’s Special Advisor on Social Policy, and from Norway, John-Arne Røttingen, Ambassador for Global Health.

John-Arne, you have the floor.

Source: World Health Organization

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WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the 10th meeting of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator Facilitation Council – 26 April 2022

Your Excellency Mathume Phaahla,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends

When the COVID-19 pandemic started more than two years ago, we responded by setting up the ACT Accelerator to help deliver vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics equitably.

Two years on, the unique partnership of governments, global health agencies, civil society and industry has delivered.

Our partnership has enabled 40 countries to begin their COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

It has helped build the sequencing capacity in Southern Africa that first detected the Omicron variant.

And we negotiated unprecedented deals with the world’s largest oxygen suppliers to increase access in more than 120 low- and middle-income countries.

However, we know that the job is far from done.

Omicron’s sub-variants are driving rapid case increases in some countries and there’s always the possibility of a more deadly variant emerging.

We must work even harder to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

WHO’s goal to vaccinate 70% of the population of every country remains essential for bringing the pandemic under control, with priority given to health workers, older people and other at-risk groups.

1.8 billion people in low- and low- and middle-income countries have yet to receive their first dose.

New COVID-19 antiviral medicines also show huge promise.

On Friday, WHO recommended nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, also known as Paxlovid, for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 patients who are at high-risk of hospitalisation.

However, while this effective therapy is readily available in high-income countries, it’s virtually inaccessible in low- and middle-income countries.

ACT-A is working to facilitate access to antivirals and develop generic production over the long-term.

The rollout of new oral antivirals is further compounded by very low testing rates in low- and middle-income countries.

Testing rates have been declining at an alarming rate in the past four months, with low-income countries testing at an average of 2 tests per day per 100 thousand population.

This is over 100 times lower than the testing rate in high income countries.

If we are not able to detect the disease, we will not be able to treat it either.

The ACT Accelerator launched a new Strategic Plan and Budget in October 2021 – yet halfway through its current budget cycle, just over 10% has been funded.

With sufficient funding and support, we can work to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end, save lives, prevent suffering, and help get economies back on track.

We must ACT now and ACT together to end the COVID-19 emergency – for everyone, everywhere.

I now have the pleasure to welcome our Co-Host for the Council, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides from the European Commission.

The European region has been hard hit by COVID-19.

They are all too aware of the tragic the consequences of this virus. The European Commission played a key role in establishing the ACT Accelerator, and has remained a steadfast champion

Commissioner Kyriakides, thank you for joining us. You have the floor.

[Commissioner Kyriakides addressed the meeting]

Thank you, Commissioner, for your remarks, and for the leadership of the European Commission to support ACT-Accelerator.

As you know, South Africa and Norway have been true champions of the ACT Accelerator as co-chairs of this facilitation council.

It’s now my honour to welcome His Excellency Mathume Phaahla, Minister of Health of South Africa, on behalf of President Ramaphosa. Your Excellency, thank you so much for South Africa’s leadership and support, and thank you for joining us today. You have the floor.

[Minister Phaahla addressed the meeting]

Thank you, Your Excellency, and my deep respect and appreciation once again for South Africa’s continuing leadership and support.

We now have a video message from Her Excellency Anne Beathe Tvinnereim, Minister for International Development of Norway, on behalf of Prime Minister Støre.

[Minister Tvinnereim addressed the meeting by video message]

My thanks once again to South Africa and Norway for their steadfast support and leadership. I will now hand over to the co-chairs of the technical team to moderate the meeting:

From South Africa, Olive Shisana, the President’s Special Advisor on Social Policy, and from Norway, John-Arne Røttingen, Ambassador for Global Health.

John-Arne, you have the floor.

Source: World Health Organization

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