Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared this Friday that the positive results of the COVID-19 vaccine trials mean that the world “can begin to dream of the end of the pandemic” But he said rich and powerful nations should not trample the poor and marginalized “in the stampede for vaccines.”
In a speech delivered at the first high-level session of the UN General Assembly on the pandemic, Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that while the virus can be stopped, “the way forward remains treacherous .”
The pandemic has shown mankind “at its best and worst,” he said, noting “inspiring acts of compassion and self-sacrifice, impressive feats of science and innovation, and moving demonstrations of solidarity, but also disturbing signs of self interest, change of guilt and divisions “.
Referring to the current increase in infections and deaths, Tedros said, without naming any country, “where science is choked with conspiracy theories, where solidarity is undermined by the division, where sacrifice is replaced by interest itself , the virus thrives, the virus spreads. ”
He warned in a virtual speech at the high-level meeting that a vaccine “will not address the vulnerabilities that lie at their root” – poverty, hunger, inequality and climate change, which he said must be addressed once the pandemic is over.
“We can not and we must return to the same exploitation patterns of production and consumption, the same contempt for the planet that sustains life, the same cycle of panic and interference, and the same political divide that fueled the pandemic,” he said.
About vaccines, Tedros said, ” the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter”, but vaccines “should be shared equally as global public goods , not private products that increase inequality and become another reason why the one some people are left behind. ”
He said the ACT-Accelerator WHO program to develop and distribute vaccines fairly quickly “runs the risk of becoming a noble gesture” without a major new funding.
He said $ 4.3 billion is needed immediately to lay the foundation for mass procurement and delivery of vaccines, and another $ 23.9 billion is required by 2021. That total, Tedros added, is less than half of 1 percent of the $ 11 trillion in stimulus packages announced so far by the G20, the richest countries in the world.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a similar call for funding for ACT-Accelerator at Thursday’s opening of the two-day session of the General Assembly. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that Guterres is frustrated and would have liked to see “a much higher rate of investment from countries that can.”