Your Excellency Dr Mkhize, Minister of Health of South Africa,
Your Excellency Dag Inge Ulstein, Minister of International Development of Norway,
Your Excellency Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner of Health and Food Safety of the European Commission,
Dear colleagues and friends,
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to all of you, and thank you all once again for your commitment and support.
Let me start with a brief overview of the state of the pandemic.
More than 157 million cases have now been reported to WHO, and more than 3.2 million people have lost their lives. Those numbers are near double what they were at the beginning of this year.
The shocking global disparity in access to vaccines and other COVID-19 tools remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.
High- and upper-middle income countries represent 53% of the world’s population, but have received 83% of the world’s vaccines.
In contrast, low- and lower-middle income countries account for 47% of the world’s population but have received just 17% of the world’s vaccines.
Low-income countries are testing at rates up to 100 times lower than in high-income countries.
Many low- and middle-income countries are also experiencing devastating shortages of oxygen.
We have the tools to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. But that can only happen with equitable access.
We now have an opportunity to fix the global imbalance in access to vaccines and other essential tools, in three essential ways:
First, we need to close the 19 billion US dollar funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, to provide the funds needed for vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics.
Second, we need countries to donate vaccines to COVAX immediately. We welcome announcements on dose sharing from France, Sweden, New Zealand, Spain and the United States.
Third, we need to pull out all the stops to increase production. That includes voluntary licensing, sharing technology and know-how, and waiving intellectual property rights.
We appreciate the recent announcement by the United States that it will support IP waiver negotiations at the World Trade Organization.
The political winds seem to be shifting our way, but we have to translate that into concrete commitments and action.
Your Excellencies, this Facilitation Council Meeting will focus on two key issues:
How we can step up production to increase the supply of vaccines, and how the ACT Accelerator’s Health Systems Connector can support country responses to increase the uptake of COVID-19 tools.
Your leadership, ideas, and advocacy are vital to this life-saving mission.
I look forward to our discussions today.
I thank you, and I would like to hand the floor over to Her Excellency Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.
Commissioner, you have the floor.