Coronavirus Global Response: WHO and Commission launch the Facilitation Council to strengthen global collaboration

Brian McGowan, Unsplash

This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.


Today, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Director General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, launched and co-hosted the first meeting of the High Level Facilitation Council, leading the work of the global collaborative framework Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (the ACT-A) to speed up the development and deployment of vaccines, tests and treatments against COVID-19, as well as to improve health systems.

The objectives of the first Council meeting was to align the plan for ACT-Accelerator as a key global solution to end the crisis and restore health systems and global growth, concur on the economic rationale and investment case for fully financing the ACT-Accelerator, and mobilise political leadership and international support for global equitable allocation.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, said: “Today’s launch of the Facilitation Council brings us closer to our global goal: access to coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments for everyone who needs them, anywhere. The EU will use all its convening power to help keep the world united against coronavirus. With the chairmanship of Norway and South Africa representing the global North and South, and the expertise of the WHO and our international partners, no country or region will be left behind in this fight.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said: “Nearly 5,000 lives are lost each day due to COVID-19 and the global economy is expected to contract by trillions of dollars this year. The case for investing to end the pandemic has never been stronger. The ACT Accelerator is the best way to ensure equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics, but at present is facing financing gap of US$35 billion. Fully financing the ACT Accelerator would shorten the pandemic and pay back this investment rapidly as the global economy recovers.”

Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: “The only way to defeat COVID-19 is together, globally. The only way forward is solidarity, responsibility and global cooperation. Today, we step up our global leadership to accelerate the development and equitable distribution of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. The Facilitation Council will play an instrumental role in delivering on this goal.

During its first meeting, the Council has adopted a political statement highlighting global collaboration as key to defeat the virus. It stresses the importance of testing, treatment, vaccination and improved health systems to overcome the pandemic. The statement also mentions the progress made and call for additional resources to deliver on the mission.

The Facilitation Council is composed by governments and non-governmental partners (BMGF, Wellcome Trust). It is co-chaired by Norway and South Africa, achieving geographical balance. The Council build on what the ACT-A has achieved in only four month, such as more than 200 vaccine candidates, 1700 clinical trials, and 80 diagnostics being followed, as well as 100 countries surveyed to identify capacity gaps.

Next steps

Final comments on investment case and ACT-A Plan will be forthcoming on 17 September and then the ACT-A high-level event at UNGA will take place on 30 September.

Between 15-30 September, there will be UNGA and G20 meetings and this will act to amplify the call to world leaders. Between 12-18 October, World Bank / IMF Annual meetings will take place to explore the scale of economic challenge and initial commitments. From November to March 2021, the G20 Summit and other related meetings will react upon the series of commitments.

Ultimately, the ACT-A Advocacy Campaign aims to address major political challenges and secure the more than €29 billion (US$35 billion) financing needs.

Background

Launched at the end of April 2020, the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator brings together governments, scientists, businesses, civil society, and philanthropists and global health organizations (the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI, FIND, Gavi, The Global Fund, Unitaid, Wellcome, the WHO, the World Bank and Global Financing Facility). It intends to accelerate the development of universally accessible vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, and the improvement of the necessary health systems. Knowledge and data sharing are key. The ACT will be in place for 2 years (renewable). No new physical structure will be established, but use will be made of the expertise of existing institutions and partners.

Three partnerships on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics define the strategy, identify the resources needed and set the accountability rules. They bring together industry, research, foundations, regulators and international organisations, following a value chain approach, from research to manufacturing and deployment. These partnerships work as autonomously as possible and are supported by a group of governmental and private non-profit partners.

ACT-A’s goal is to protect health systems and restore societies and economies by accelerating development, equitable allocation and scaled up delivery of 2 billion doses of vaccines by the end of 2021, 245 million courses of therapeutics by mid-2021, and 500 million tests by mid-2021.

The European Commission is committed in a global solution to the pandemic. This is why it has raised almost €16 billion since 4 May 2020 under the Coronavirus Global Response, the global action for universal access to tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus and for the global recovery.

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