There is a funding gap of $16 billion to address the threat of Omicron and prevent even more dangerous variants from emerging in lower and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
The apex UN health agency said that the ACT-Accelerator initiative, that aims to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, vaccines and personal protective equipment low- and middle-income countries, has to meet $6.8 billion in-country delivery costs to take vital steps towards ending the pandemic as a global emergency in 2022.
With a significant proportion of the global population still unable to get vaccinated, tested or treated, $16 billion in grant funding is urgently required from governments to fund the work of the ACT-Accelerator agencies, the WHO said in a statement. The ACT-Accelerator has called for the support of higher income countries, at a time when vast global disparities in access to COVID-19 tools persist.
According to WHO, only 10 per cent of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose. “This massive inequity not only costs lives, it also hurts economies and risks the emergence of new, more dangerous variants that could rob current tools of their effectiveness and set even highly-vaccinated populations back many months,” the WHO said, adding that with every month of delay, the global economy stands to lose almost four times the investment the ACT-Accelerator needs.
The ACT-Accelerator has asked donor countries to contribute $16.8 billion of the $23.4 billion total budget in immediate grant funding for October 2021 to September 2022 – with all funding figures rounded to the closest decimal. With $814 million of this $16.8 billion already pledged, $16 billion is now needed to close the immediate financing gap, the WHO said.
The WHO said that with the funds, the health agency will aim at in-country rollouts to get vaccines into arms, create a pandemic vaccine pool of 600 million doses, support community engagement and cover ancillary costs for donations – contributing to countries’ national vaccination objectives towards the global target of 70 per cent coverage in all countries by mid-2022. It further aims to purchase 700 million tests – of the total 988 million targeted in the overall ACT-Accelerator budget, procure treatments for 120 million patients, as well as 433 million cubic metres of oxygen, including 100 per cent of the oxygen needs of low-income countries.
The funding will also be used to support clinical trials for treatments and vaccines, to help address variants of concern and initiate the development of broadly protective coronavirus vaccines.
“The rapid spread of Omicron makes it even more urgent to ensure tests, treatments and vaccines are distributed equitably globally. 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-19 vaccination levels, weak testing, and medicine shortages. Science gave us the tools to fight COVID-19; if they are shared globally in solidarity, we can end COVID-19 as a global health emergency this year,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO.
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