Countries should join the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX vaccine facility by a Friday deadline to help ensure that immunizations are fairly and efficiently distributed, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.
So far, 92 lower-income nations are seeking assistance via the COVAX facility, part of the WHO’s ACT Accelerator to boost development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics to combat the pandemic. Some 80 higher-income nations have expressed interest, but many must still confirm their intention to join by the end of this week.
“If people in low- and middle-income countries miss out on vaccines, the virus will continue to kill and the economic recovery globally will be delayed,” Tedros told a WHO regional event for Europe that was broadcast virtually.
Pandemic preparedness panel slams collective failure to heed warnings
A collective failure by political leaders to heed warnings and prepare for an infectious disease pandemic has transformed “a world at risk” to a “world in disorder”, according to a report on international epidemic preparedness.
“Financial and political investments in preparedness have been insufficient, and we are all paying the price,” said the report by The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB).
“It is not as if the world has lacked the opportunity to take these steps,” it added. “There have been numerous calls for action … over the last decade, yet none has generated the changes needed.”
The GPMB, co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), is chaired by former WHO director-general Gro Harlem Brundtland, who now also chairs an independent watchdog that monitors the WHO.
The board’s 2019 report, released a few months before the novel coronavirus emerged in China, said there was a real threat of “a rapidly spreading pandemic due to a lethal respiratory pathogen” and warned such an event could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy.
This year’s report – entitled “A World in Disorder” – said world leaders had never before “been so clearly forewarned of the dangers of a devastating pandemic”, and yet they had failed to take adequate action.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed “a collective failure to take pandemic prevention, preparedness and response seriously and prioritize it accordingly”, it said.
“Pathogens thrive in disruption and disorder. COVID-19 has proven the point.”
The report noted that despite calling a year ago for heads of government to commit and invest in pandemic preparedness, for health systems to be strengthened and for financial risk planning to take seriously the threat of a devastating pandemic, little progress had been made on any of these.
A lack of leadership, it said, is exacerbating the current pandemic.
“Failure to learn the lessons of COVID-19 or to act on them with the necessary resources and commitment will mean that the next pandemic, which is sure to come, will be even more damaging,” it said.