G20 leaders boost support of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator but urgent and immediate action is needed to maintain momentum

21 May 2021 | Geneva — World leaders today met at the Global Health Summit, co-hosted by the European Commission and Italy as part of its G20 presidency, to adopt an agenda to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, and develop and endorse a Rome Declaration of principles, at a time when the virus is surging and spreading uncontrollably in many parts of the world.

With nine people losing their lives to COVID-19 every minute, and as the risk of even more transmissible and dangerous variants increases, the Global Health Summit comes at a critical juncture. The future of the pandemic is in the hands of the G20 leaders.

The ACT-Accelerator was launched just over a year ago in response to the G20’s call for a global mechanism to accelerate the development of tests, treatments and vaccines and to ensure their equitable distribution. Hosted by the World Health Organization, the ACT-Accelerator offers the only end-to-end multilateral solution to speeding up an end to the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ACT-Accelerator welcomes the commitments made at the Global Health Summit and will work with countries to operationalize rapidly these pledges, both financial and – crucially – for over 100 million doses of scarce vaccine. Current financial commitments are reflected in the ACT-Accelerator interactive funding tracker. However, a significant funding gap remains.

Speeding up an end to the pandemic through the ACT-Accelerator would cost less than 1% of what governments are spending on stimulus packages to treat the consequences of the pandemic. As the economic and social costs of the pandemic continue to escalate, the case for global solidarity, grows even stronger. The world now needs the G20 to ACT.

The Rome Declaration, released at the end of the Summit, reaffirmed leaders’ support for the ACT-Accelerator and underlined the necessity to share the financial burden and close the funding gap, in order for the ACT Accelerator to fulfil its mandate for the equitable allocation and delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines to defeat the pandemic. Of vital importance, the group also emphasized its support for global sharing of vaccine doses approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO) and through COVAX.

Carl Bildt, Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator and former Prime Minister of Sweden, said: “Today’s commitments are welcome – but more action is needed now, not in weeks or months, to change the course of the pandemic. While some countries have moved beyond just words, by donating vaccines and pledging to fully finance the ACT-Accelerator, further action is needed from G20 and G7 leaders if we are to stop this virus from spreading and mutating further. We all have substantial work ahead of us.”

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, said: “We now have an opportunity to fix the global imbalance. First, we need to close the 18.5 billion US dollar funding gap for the ACT Accelerator. Second, we need countries to donate tens of millions of doses of vaccines immediately through COVAX – which is the agreed global mechanism for distributing vaccines. We welcome the generous announcements made today; in the coming weeks and months, we will need hundreds of millions more doses. We need companies to help make donations happen fast, and to give COVAX the first right of refusal on all uncommitted doses now, in 2021. Third, we must urgently and dramatically scale up production of all of these tools, through voluntary licensing, sharing technology and know-how, and waiving intellectual property rights. We are at a critical juncture. The creation of the ACT Accelerator represents a historic, forward-thinking effort based on the principles of solidarity and equity. Let’s seize the moment and finish the job we started.” 

Today’s commitments come at a critical point in the pandemic. Only through concerted and rigorous testing to control virus spread, access to life-saving oxygen and dexamethasone to save lives, and vaccines to protect people – can bring this pandemic under control. A massive disparity in access to tests, treatments and vaccines between the world’s richest and poorest countries is prolonging the pandemic in all parts of the world. Funding the work of the ACT-Accelerator now would speed up an end to the pandemic everywhere.

–         Testing rates in high-income countries are 100x the rates in low-income countries, contributing to unmonitored and uncontrolled spread of the virus. Fully funding the work of the ACT-A Diagnostics Pillar would significantly increase testing in low- and middle-income countries and build sequencing capacity to ensure newly emerging virus variants can be quickly identified and managed.

–         High-income countries have administered nearly 100x more vaccine doses per inhabitant than low-income countries, leaving millions of healthcare workers and vulnerable populations unprotected in the world’s poorest countries. Fully funding the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) and sharing vaccines through ACT-A’s COVAX Facility would protect 27% of the populations in the AMC92 countries by the end of 2021.

–         The drastic undersupply of oxygen is risking millions of lives across the world. Fully funding the work of the ACT-A Therapeutics Pillar would save up to 4 million lives with the delivery of life-saving oxygen to those that need it most, and fund research into new treatments to fight the disease.

–        Health systems are in many countries unprepared for the roll out of COVID-19 tools, and health workers in low- and middle-income countries are frequently unprotected due to lack of PPE. Fully funding the Health Systems Connector would protect 2 million healthcare workers on the frontlines in LICs with supplies of PPE and help prepare health systems for the roll out of tools to fight COVID-19.

Global solidarity against COVID-19 isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the fastest and most effective way to defeat the pandemic and get all our lives and economies back to normal. ###