No time for Covid complacency, say top countries responsible for tracking global rollout of Covid vaccines, tests and treatments
Warning comes from Norway and South Africa on behalf of the ACT-Accelerator Facilitation Council, as deployment of medical countermeasures and other tools stalls
Stressing that the global pandemic is not over, they say coordinated action, funding and political commitments are essential to save lives and prevent economic, health and societal harm from COVID-19.
New report from the Council’s Diagnostics and Therapeutics Task Force outlines key recommendations to improve access to COVID-19 testing and treatment
Track and accelerate progress to reach everyone, everywhere
As the third UNGA of the COVID-19 pandemic draws to a close, many countries fall far short of global targets for vaccination coverage, testing rates, and access to treatment and PPE. Co-Chairs of ACT-Accelerator Council’s Tracking and Accelerating Progress Working Group warn that coordinated action, sustained political will and funding commitments are still needed to save lives and tackle the threat persistence of COVID-19.
The group – co-chaired by Indonesia and the United States – is tasked with tracking progress towards global COVID-19 goals for access to vaccines, diagnostics, treatments and PPE, under the umbrella of the partnership. Fair Access ACT-Accelerator.
Ahead of several high-level events at the UNGA to take stock of progress, Tri Tharyat from Indonesia and Loyce Pace from the United States stress that while progress is being made, the global threat of COVID-19 is far from over. be completed, especially for high-risk groups in low-income countries. According to the most recent data from the Global COVID Access Tracker, about a quarter of the world’s most vulnerable people still need a series of primary vaccinations against COVID-19 (24% of older people and 26% of health workers). health).
Indonesian Ambassador Tri Tharyat, Director General of Multilateral Cooperation at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “Critical funding and political leadership are needed for the deployment of tests, treatments and vaccines. ACT-Accelerator funding will support its work to expand access to lifesaving tools, from new oral antivirals to booster doses, to ensure healthcare workers and those most at risk are protected. wherever they live in the world. We need to quickly translate vaccines into vaccination. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
The Working Group notes with concern:
- Vaccination rates for COVID-19 in low-income countries stand at 19%, compared to nearly 75% in high-income countries.
- Low-income and lower-middle-income countries are still far from the goal of 100 tests per 100,000 people per day; low-income countries are testing at a rate of just 2/100,000 people, while lower-middle-income countries are at 22/100,000 people.
- The roll-out of life-saving new treatments for COVID-19, including oral antivirals, in low- and lower-middle-income countries remains limited or non-existent.
- Equitable access to these COVID-19 countermeasures and childbirth preparedness are essential for countries to integrate management of the virus into their primary health systems, as part of a longer-term strategy. .
Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, “Supporting vaccine readiness and uptake makes a significant difference in increasing COVID-19 vaccine coverage and dramatically reducing the number of very low COVID countries. -19 vaccination rate. Primary series coverage in COVAX AMC 92 countries increased from 28% in January 2022 to 51% in September. There is still progress to be made in global immunization rates and lessons about how successful efforts could apply to country-level testing or treatment initiatives.
Access to testing and treatment is essential for those most at risk
As a report on access to COVID-19 testing and treatment is released today, the co-chairs of the council’s Therapeutics and Diagnostics Working Group, Mustaqeem de Gama from South Africa and Ian Dalton from the UK , point to declining testing rates and lack of equitable access to new antiviral treatments for COVID-19.
The task force report highlights that diagnostics and therapeutics, and associated test-to-treat strategies, are fundamental elements of the pandemic response, both for COVID-19 and future health threats. . The report makes sixteen recommendations for action for the medium and long-term control of COVID-19, as well as the strengthening of prevention, preparedness and response (PPR).
Mustaqeem De Gama, Director of Legal International Trade at South Africa’s Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, said: “The rapid and equitable deployment of vaccines, tests and treatments is crucial to help countries fight COVID-19. Without proper testing and sequencing, the world is blind to the evolution of the virus and potential new variants. People in low- and middle-income countries continue to die due to lack of access to antiviral treatment and oxygen. We must push for equitable access to COVID-19 tools, despite multiple competing priorities. »
Ian Dalton, Senior Pharmaceuticals and Diagnostics Manager at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, said: “As the report shows, investment in diagnostics and therapy capacity for COVID-19 is paying off. dividends for future pandemic prevention, preparedness and response. There are action points to be drawn from the analysis undertaken by the working group, and I hope partners will see this as a springboard for action.
Redouble efforts and political momentum
Against the backdrop of these calls to action, a series of high-level events at the UNGA will highlight the deployment of COVID-19 tools and the urgent need for action and continued political support to achieve access. fair.
An event organized by the UN Secretary-General on September 23rd take stock of the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, identify priority areas for accelerating equitable access and seek to mobilize additional political support to effectively end the pandemic this year, accelerating vaccination rates and implementing testing for -Treat strategies everywhere.
A Foreign Ministerial meeting co-chaired by Bangladesh, Botswana, Spain and the United States, as part of the COVID-19 Global Action Plan (GAP) initiative, will take place on the sidelines of the AGNU. It will focus on maintaining continued political commitment, coordination and action to end the acute phase of the pandemic, including vaccine delivery, reducing information gaps, supply chain strengthening, health worker support, access to diagnostics and treatment, and future global health. security architecture.
John-Arne Røttingen, Norway’s Ambassador for Global Health, said: “We have made tremendous collective progress, thanks to the work of countries, ACT-A agencies, financial contributors, civil society and others. partners. We call on countries to support the achievement of vaccination coverage goals in all countries, as well as the roll-out of testing and treatment programmes. There is still a funding gap to do this work and all countries should contribute equally to ACT-Accelerator.
Professor Olive Shisana, Special Adviser to the President on Social Policy, South Africa, said: “The pandemic continues to threaten lives and livelihoods, particularly in Africa, where millions remain unvaccinated. and do not have access to new antiviral treatments. Now is not the time to indulge, but rather to act together in solidarity, to guarantee access to everyone, everywhere.