Heads of state and global health leaders on Friday made an unprecedented commitment to work together to accelerate the development and production of new vaccines, tests and treatments for Covid-19 and assure equitable access worldwide.
The Covid-19 pandemic has already affected more than 2.4 million people, killing over 160,000. It is taking a huge toll on families, societies, health systems and economies around the world, and for as long as this virus threatens any country, the entire world is at risk.
There is an urgent need, therefore, while following existing measures to keep people physically distanced and to test and track all contacts of people who test positive, for innovative Covid-19 vaccines, diagnostics and treatments.
"We will only halt Covid-19 through solidarity," said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"Countries, health partners, manufacturers, and the private sector must act together and ensure that the fruits of science and research can benefit everybody," he added.
Work has already started. Since January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been working with researchers from hundreds of institutions to develop and test vaccines, standardize assays and standardize regulatory approaches on innovative trial designs and define criteria to prioritize vaccine candidates.
The Organisation has prequalified diagnostics that are being used all over the world, and more are in the pipeline. And it is coordinating a global trial to assess the safety and efficacy of four therapeutics against COVID-19.
The challenge is to speed up and harmonize processes to ensure that once products are deemed safe and effective, they can be brought to the billions of people in the world who need them.
Past experience, in the early days of HIV treatment, for example, and in the deployment of vaccines against the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, shows that even when tools are available, they have not been equally available to all.
So today leaders came together at a virtual event, co-hosted by the World Health Organization, the President of France, the President of the European Commission, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The event was joined by many prominent persons including chiefs of political, economic and health organizations.
They pledged to work towards equitable global access based on an unprecedented level of partnership. They agreed to create a strong unified voice, to build on past experience and to be accountable to the world, to communities and to one another.
"Our shared commitment is to ensure all people have access to all the tools to prevent, detect, treat and defeat Covid-19," said Dr Tedros.
"No country and no organisation can do this alone. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator brings together the combined power of several organisations to work with speed and scale."
Health leaders called on the global community and political leaders to support this landmark collaboration and for donors to provide the necessary resources to accelerate achievement of its objectives, capitalizing on the opportunity provided by a forthcoming pledging initiative that starts on 4 May 2020. This initiative, spearheaded by the European Union, aims to mobilize the significant resources needed to accelerate the work towards protecting the world from Covid-19.