On Wednesday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged rich countries to pay their fair share of the money needed to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic by contributing $16 billion urgently.WHO said the rapid injection of cash into its Access to COVID Tools Accelerator could finish off the virus as a global health emergency this year.
ACT-A, which is led by WHO, aims to develop, produce and distribute resources to tackle the pandemic. These include everything from tests, treatments, vaccines and protective equipment. ACT-A also led to the development of the Covax facility, which is designed to ensure that poorer counties could access vaccines, current and eventual. This follows the correct, and unfortunate, prediction that richer nations would hoard doses. Covax delivered its billionth vaccine dose in mid-January.
$23.4 billion is needed for ACT-A’s programme for the year October 2021-September 2022. However, only $800 million has been raised so far. The scheme is therefore requiring $16 billion up front from wealthy nations to close the immediate gap, with the rest to be self-funded by middle-income countries. In a statement, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant made it more urgent to ensure tests, treatments and vaccines are distributed equally.
He highlighted how if higher-income countries pay their fair share of the ACT-Accelerator costs, the partnership can support low and middle income countries to overcome low COVID vaccination levels, weak testing and medicine shortages. With just 0.4% of the 4.7 billion COVID tests administered globally during the pandemic having been used in low-income countries, only 10% of people in those nations have received at least one dose of the jab.
The vast inequity, WHO said, is costing lives and hurting economies, but also risking the emergence of new variants which could rob current tools of their effectiveness and set highly-vaccinated populations back months.