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Solidarity Is Self-Interest, Secretary-General Tells ‘Accelerating End of COVID-19 Pandemic’ Event, Urging Concerted Efforts for COVID-19 Tests, Vaccines

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SG/SM/20297

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ welcoming remarks to the high-level side event on the ACT-Accelerator, “Accelerating the End of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Taking New Solutions to Scale and Making Them Equitably Accessible, to Save Lives, Protect Health Systems and Restart the Global Economy”, held today:

Welcome and thank you for coming together in this extraordinary international effort to address a human crisis like no other in our lifetimes.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools — or ACT-Accelerator — and its COVAX Facility are prime examples of multilateralism in action for the global public good. We are already seeing remarkable progress in our efforts and we must deepen that work.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test of global solidarity in generations. Joining forces to defeat it should be a no-brainer. After all, COVID-19 anywhere is a threat to people and economies everywhere.

And that threat is growing at lightning speed. Despite extraordinary efforts to contain its spread, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world, reaching 1 million lives lost this week. We see rising cases and troubling signs of new waves in many countries. And it will get worse — hitting the most vulnerable people and places the hardest.

It is in every country’s national and economic self-interest to work together to massively expand access to tests and treatments, and to support a vaccine as a global public good — a “people’s vaccine” available and affordable for everyone, everywhere. The ACT-Accelerator — with its COVAX Facility — is the vehicle to get us there. Let me point to three fundamental reasons why.

First, the ACT-Accelerator is the only global mechanism with the full spectrum of partners and tools to beat the pandemic — with tests, treatments and the world’s largest portfolio of vaccines in the most advanced trial stages. Just this week, the ACT-Accelerator announced the availability of 120 million affordable, high-quality rapid tests for low- and middle-income countries.

And by offering the largest pool of vaccine options, countries share risks and have a greater chance of gaining access to the most successful, proven, effective and safe vaccines. Safety is the assurance the public needs the most when the race for the vaccine becomes politicized and fuelled by misinformation.

Second, the ACT-Accelerator provides the only safe and certain way to re‑open the global economy as quickly as possible. A national vaccine effort in a handful of countries will not unlock the doors to the global economy and restore livelihoods. In the first phase, the key is getting vaccines to at least health- and social-care workers, the elderly and other vulnerable populations simultaneously across the world — regardless of wealth. That’s what the COVAX Facility offers — with the participation of 156 countries representing two thirds of the global population.

Third, pricing. With so many countries already on board, the ACT‑Accelerator can leverage its massive market and bargaining power to secure the lowest prices for effective vaccines and rapid diagnostics and ensure equitable access for all who need it.

The world’s leading international health organizations, research institutes, foundations and private enterprises are working night and day to prove this unique model works. But, it needs a quantum leap in support. The $3 billion it has received has been critical for the start-up. Now we need to scale up and ensure maximum impact — and that requires an additional $35 billion. That must begin with an immediate infusion of $15 billion.

These resources are crucial now to avoid losing the window of opportunity for advance purchase and production, to build stocks in parallel with licensing, to boost research, and to help countries prepare to optimize the new vaccines when they arrive. We cannot allow a lag in access to further widen already vast inequalities.

But, let’s be clear: we will not get there with donors simply allocating resources only from the official development assistance (ODA) budgets. We need to think bigger. It is time for countries to draw funding from their own response and recovery programmes. By helping others, they will help themselves.

Investing in the ACT-Accelerator will accelerate every country’s own recovery. The pandemic is costing the global economy $375 billion a month and 500 million jobs since the crisis erupted. The developed world has devoted many trillions of dollars to respond to the socioeconomic impacts of the crisis in their own countries. Surely, we can invest a small fraction of that to stop the spread of the disease everywhere.

I call on all countries and partners to significantly step up in the next three months to provide much needed new and additional resources and to mobilize all partners and to put everyone behind a global response to deliver.

Solidarity is self-interest. Grasping that twenty-first-century truth is essential to end this crisis and emerge safer, smarter and stronger together.

For information media. Not an official record.