Africa: Director-General's Remarks At WHO Global Research and Innovation Forum - 13 May 2021

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Esteemed guests, dear colleagues and friends,

Fifteen months ago, WHO convened the first Global Research and Innovation Forum following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

It brought together 500 scientists from 60 countries to identify key priorities to be addressed in this unfolding global threat.

Their experience and foresight have proven essential to shaping the response.

These goals included target product profiles for drugs, vaccines and diagnostics; criteria for vaccine prioritization; evidence-based public-health measures, and more.

Using WHO's R&D Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, thousands of experts came together to address these goals.

The lesson is clear: an agile, collaborative approach to research and innovation is essential to responding both to COVID-19, and to the epidemics and pandemics of the future.

On behalf of WHO and our 194 Member States, I would like to thank all the scientists and partners who have collaborated with us.

I would also like to thank the hundreds of thousands of patients and volunteers who participated in clinical studies, and the researchers who conducted them.

National institutions and research centres across the globe have played a critical role, by supporting the implementation of priority research.

Together, these collective contributions have helped us to make substantial strides in the global response to COVID-19.

However, we still have work to do.

Globally, the situation remains perilous.

The spread of variants, the too-speedy relaxation of public health and social measures, and inequitable vaccination are all driving transmission.

COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to reduce severe disease and death, and early results suggest that they might also drive down transmission.

Yet their inequitable distribution means the richest countries have received 83 percent of vaccines, while lower middle income and low-income countries have received only 17 percent, despite being home to nearly half the world's population

WHO is working hard to address this disparity, through the COVAX facility and other global initiatives.

Of course, it is important to remember that vaccines are not our only tool in response to COVID-19.

Many countries have shown that, with a consistent and tailored use of proven public health measures, this virus can be controlled.

With your help, the updated Research and Innovation Roadmap that we will work on over the coming two days can help us to chart the end of the pandemic.

Let me leave you with three key priorities:

First, in updating the Roadmap, let's aim to deliver complete solutions that take the development, evaluation and deployment of tools from their beginning to their end, prioritizing both equity and efficiency.

Second, we must expand collaboration between expert groups and partners.

There is research capacity available around the globe that has not yet been sufficiently utilised in the pandemic response, particularly in the Global South.

Third, it is critical to maintain and further promote large platform trials across the world.

Thank you all once again for your commitment and support to harnessing the power of science for a healthier, safer fairer and more resilient world

I thank you.

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