WHO - World Health Organization

06/10/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/10/2021 05:09

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on COVID-19 - 10 June 2021

Honourable Ministers, Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all Member States, and thank you for joining us once again.

As you know, last week we concluded a very successful World Health Assembly, with more than 30 resolutions and decisions adopted across a wide range of health issues.

We very much appreciate the strong expressions of support from Member States for strengthening WHO, building on the changes we have already made as part of the WHO transformation.

And we look forward to the Special Session of the World Health Assembly in November, and to discussing the benefits of a WHO convention, agreement or other international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response.

We also look forward to the establishment of the Open Ended Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies in the lead-up to the Special Session.

At the same time, we must remain focused on the task at hand, which is ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

We're encouraged that the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported to WHO has now declined for six weeks in a row, and deaths have declined for five weeks.

However, we still see a mixed picture around the world.

While the European and South-East Asia Regions reported declines in new cases and deaths last week, countries within both regions remain on an upward trend or are at high risk.

And three regions - Africa, the Americas and the Western Pacific - all reported increases in deaths last week.

In countries with the greatest access to vaccines, we are seeing a decline in mortality among older age groups.

In these countries, the public health and social measures that have helped to protect people are being eased, but they must be eased cautiously, and adjusted in line with viral circulation and response capacities.

With the increased global transmission of variants of concern including the Delta variant, lifting restrictions too quickly could be disastrous for those who are not vaccinated.

But many countries don't have that option, because they don't have enough vaccines. In these countries, the continued use of tailored public health measures is the best way to suppress transmission.

The inequitable distribution of vaccines has allowed the virus to continue spreading, increasing the chances of a variant emerging that renders vaccines less effective.

Six months since the first vaccines were administered, high-income countries have administered almost 44% of the world's doses. Low-income countries have administered just 0.4%.

The most frustrating thing about this statistic is that it hasn't changed in months.

Inequitable vaccination is a threat to all nations, not just those with the fewest vaccines.

Several countries have made significant pledges to share doses lately.

We're grateful to those countries and we look forward to those pledges being fulfilled in June and July.

At the World Health Assembly, I called for a massive global effort to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of all countries by September, and at least 30% by the end of the year.

To reach these targets, we need an additional 250 million doses by September, and we need 100 million doses just in June and July.

COVAX is the best way to distribute vaccines quickly and equitably.

Sharing vaccines now is essential for ending the acute phase of the pandemic.

Scaling up production is also essential.

Two months ago, the Secretariat also issued a call for Expressions of Interest to establish an mRNA technology transfer hub, to facilitate increased global production of mRNA vaccines.

We have received expressions of interest both from a number of companies and from a number of countries wanting to receive the technology and set up production plants.

We are conducting a technical review and will soon engage in discussion with you, our Member States, and partners to start implementation.

We continue to call on companies with mRNA technology to share it through the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool - the result can be a win-win for both the owner of the know-how as well as for public health.

Even as we remain resolutely focused on supporting countries to end the pandemic, we are also refining our plans for the second phase of studies on the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

In the coming days we will be issuing a call for nominations of experts to participate in the second phase of this scientific mission, and I will have more to say on the full timetable in the near future.

I wish to emphasise that for this exercise to be successful, it must be led by the science, following the facts, and kept free from politics.

As always, we are grateful for your engagement with today's presentation, and we look forward to your questions and comments.

I thank you.