Recent WHO estimates show the death toll associated with COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 was just under 15 million, a sobering reminder of the human cost of this pandemic. With reported cases falling globally, it is tempting – but misguided – to think the crisis is over. This is the moment to intensify efforts, not to ease off. This summit gives leaders the opportunity to write the closing chapters of the pandemic – an opportunity they cannot afford to miss.
It is imperative that leaders seize this opportunity to mobilize the funding and political will required to achieve global targets for COVID-19 vaccination coverage, testing rates and access to treatments, including oral antivirals and oxygen. Achieving these targets is essential to ending the pandemic, by reducing transmission and protecting everyone from the harms of COVID-19.
A determining global response will mitigate the economic fallout of COVID-19, including the supply disruptions that are contributing to inflation and slow growth in many parts of the world. Definitively ending COVID-19 will also enable the world to better focus on reversing the lost progress against other diseases and getting routine immunization back on track, especially critical for children’s survival and development.
However, the current context for ending the pandemic is making this work harder. Testing rates around the globe are plummeting, which means we cannot track the trajectory of this evolving virus, with low-income countries testing at an average of just 5 tests per day per 100,000 people – far from the goal of 100 per day.
Despite the significant progress made increasing coverage rates in lower-income countries, millions are still unvaccinated and exposed, with just over 15% of people in low-income countries having received a vaccine. Supporting country targets in light of the WHO goal of 70% coverage – especially prioritizing full coverage of at-risk groups – remains the best way to save lives, protect health systems and minimize cases of Long COVID. Access to effective new antivirals is limited by constrained supply and low testing rates, while medical oxygen and PPE shortages are still impacting many countries.
The ACT-Accelerator published a strategic plan and budget in October 2021 to address these inequities. We have made concrete progress on all fronts – but the partnership still faces a huge financing gap. We, the leaders of the ACT-Accelerator’s constituent agencies, are concerned that 6 months into our new budget cycle, just over 10% of our financing needs have been met.
Three months ago, we launched our financing framework with ‘fair share’ asks of the world’s richest countries, calculated based on the size of their national developed and what they would gain from a faster recovery of the global economy and trade. As of today, 6 countries have led the way in pledging at least 25% of their fair share – but we need more.