Africa: Director-General's Opening Remarks At Paris Peace Forum Spring Meeting - 17 May 2021


Merci beaucoup, Pascal, and thank you for your leadership of the Paris Peace Forum. I'm delighted to be able to participate in this important discussion with you and my sister Dr Ngozi.

I think I would go one step further and say not just that the world is at risk of vaccine apartheid; the world is in vaccine apartheid.

As you know, high-income countries account for 15% of the world's population, but have 45% of the world's vaccines.

Low- and lower-middle countries account for almost half of the world's population, but have received just 17% of the world's vaccines. So the gap is really huge.

The most frustrating part is that this is not an unexpected situation. It happened before. We know from our experience with HIV and other diseases that without intervention, market forces exclude those with the least financial muscle.

That's why WHO co-founded the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, which includes the COVAX facility, in an effort to achieve the most equitable access possible to tests, treatments and vaccines.

By the way, my sister Ngozi was chairing the ACT Accelerator principals group, and she's still a member of that, although after she became WTO DG she passed it over to the former Prime Minister of Sweden, Carl Bildt. I would like to use this opportunity to thank her for her leadership. So in both places, she helped with that and now helping from the other end.

The situation is certainly more equitable than it would have been otherwise; so far we have shipped more than 63 million doses of vaccine to 124 countries and economies.

But that represents just 0.5% of the combined population of those countries and economies.

The problem is not getting vaccines out of COVAX; the problem is getting them in. So COVAX works; the problem is supply.

We all know the reasons: vaccine nationalism, vaccine diplomacy, and severe supply constraints.

Even now, some high-income countries are moving to vaccinate children and adolescents, while health workers, older people and other at-risk groups around the world remain unvaccinated.

The consequences are clear to see: Cases and deaths from COVID-19 globally remain at or near record highs, and new variants threaten to unravel the gains we have made.

The basic problem is a lack of sharing, so the solution is more sharing:

First, sharing financial resources to fully fund the ACT-Accelerator and within that the COVAX facility - not just for vaccines, but for tests and treatments as well.

Second, it's about sharing doses with COVAX, which is the fastest and most equitable way to distribute vaccines globally.

And third, is sharing technology, know-how and intellectual property to scale up manufacturing of vaccines.

Thank you, Pascal and back to you.

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