WHO - World Health Organization

09/23/2022 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/24/2022 01:38

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the UNGA UNSG-hosted event: “Ending the pandemic through equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments” – 23 September 2022

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

I thank Secretary-General Guterres for bringing us together today, and for his leadership.

We have never been in a better position to end COVID-19 as a global health emergency, as Prime Minister De Croo of Belgium said.

The number of weekly reported deaths is near the lowest since the pandemic began;

And two-thirds of the world's population is vaccinated, including 75% of health workers and older people.

But these encouraging global numbers mask disparities that put us all at risk.

Only 19% of the population of low-income countries are vaccinated, compared with 75% in high-income countries.

A new report published yesterday by the ACT Accelerator Council highlights falling testing rates globally, virtually non-existent access to new antivirals in most low- and middle-income countries, and outlines what needs to be done to close these gaps.

These inequities are not just a risk for those they affect directly; they are a risk for all of us.

So closing them is essential if we are to truly end the pandemic.

Through the ACT Accelerator, we have made good progress.

Since last year's UNGA meeting, COVAX has delivered almost 1.5 billion vaccine doses, supporting 68 new countries to reach vaccination coverage of at least 40%.

Coverage in the COVAX AMC countries has almost doubled this year, to more than 50%;

Access to medical oxygen has increased;

And just yesterday, our partners at the Global Fund announced an agreement with Pfizer to facilitate access to Paxlovid through the ACT Accelerator.

But there is much more to be done.

We have the tools to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end.

But only if we vaccinate all health workers and older people, keep testing, and expand access to effective antivirals.

That doesn't mean the virus will go away; it means countries will be able to transition to managing it alongside other respiratory diseases.

In the same way, in the coming months the partners of the ACT Accelerator will also integrate COVID-19 into the regular work of our organizations, to ensure countries can continue to access vaccines, tests and treatments over the long-term.

Our partnership has provided a powerful platform for collaboration, and important lessons for the future, as we look to build a stronger architecture for health emergency preparedness and response.

Let me leave you with three priorities:

First, I echo the Secretary-General's call that together we must close the vaccination gap, especially among the most at-risk.

Second, I urge all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing;

And third, we must ensure that life-saving antivirals are available everywhere.

We're not there yet, but the end is in sight.

A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view; she runs harder, with all the energy she has left.

So must we. Now is the time for all of us to run harder and make sure we cross the line and reap the rewards of all our hard work.

I thank you.