Ending the COVID-19 pandemic and minimising its impact largely depends on finding effective ways to treat and immunise against the disease.
Here’s the good news: so far, billions in funding has been mobilised in record time to fast-track research and development on COVID-19. Plus, there are over 500 treatment and vaccine candidates in development, with some COVID-19 vaccine campaigns already underway.
But the bad news: this is only half the battle.
A historic effort
Delivering medication and vaccines at the speed and scale required to tackle COVID-19 has never been done before. We will have to overcome major challenges.
The history of pharmaceutical developments shows us that new health technologies are often too expensive or not well suited for low-resource settings. This means that when a new medication or vaccine becomes available, lower-income countries typically have to wait years to get it because higher-income countries have stronger buying powers.
This is our chance to set a new precedent by putting equity at the centre of the COVID-19 response. Here’s how that can be done:
- Build the supply of COVID-19 medications and vaccines by investing in global and regional capacity-building.
- Secure universal access and affordability, regardless of nationality or socioeconomic status, by ensuring the initial supply of medicines and vaccines are not siphoned off to the highest bidder.
- Share knowledge because the more places that have the know-how and licenses to produce a vaccine, the more supply there will be to meet demand.
The equitable path out of the pandemic
To achieve our vision of an equitable solution, we have four demands for every government, company, and philanthropist involved in the development of a medication or vaccine for COVID-19:
- We want governments and philanthropists to fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. The ACT-A collaboration is the best chance we have to quickly find ways to diagnose, treat, and immunise against COVID-19, and to get these tools to every corner of our planet.
- We want countries and the private sector to go on the record that their procurement of vaccines will align with the WHO’s global allocation guidance; then follow through and do it.
- We want countries to ensure their domestic and ACT-A investments are conditioned on transparent commitments for global affordability and access.
- We want a transparent procurement process that discloses contracts, prices, and research and development costs.
The stakes couldn’t be any higher, so we need every government, company, and philanthropist involved in this process to go on the record and commit to equity.