Remarks at the 10th Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting

Opening remarks by minister for international development Anne Beathe Tvinnereim at the 10th Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Facilitation Council meeting at WHO.

Pre-recorded video statement

Dear all,

Thank you, Dr Tedros, Commissioner Kyriakides and Minister Phaahla, for your important messages.

More than two years into the pandemic people are still suffering from COVID-19.

In fact, more people are infected with COVID-19 than ever before. Around 500 million cases have been reported. Weekly death rates remain high.

The numbers are likely to be multiple times higher, partly since availability of tests has been low in many countries. The indirect consequences for families, societies and economies are severe.

The ACT-Accelerator was established as an ad-hoc initiative to secure equitable access to COVID-19 tools. We now mark two years of work.

As we approach the end of the acute phase of the pandemic, it is time to take a closer look at the following issues:

What is lacking?

What is most urgent?

And what will come after?

We are not on track to meet the global goals of 70 % vaccination rate in every country by mid-2022. The same is true for our goals on testing and treatment.

Now, as we predicted, delivery of vaccines is the key challenge.

In recent months, we have quickly gone from a situation where vaccine demand exceeded supply, to a situation where COVAX must turn down vaccine donations, due to lack of capacity for vaccine roll-out.

Vaccines are not effective until people are vaccinated. ACT-A and COVAX partners are now trying to find ways to rapidly raise the vaccination rates in countries with low coverage.

At the same time, securing access to diagnostics and medicines are growing in importance. This is especially the case in countries where global vaccination targets fail to be met.    

Only by fully financing ACT-A for 2022 can we achieve all our goals.

I would like to thank countries that have contributed with new pledges to ACT-A since our last meeting in the Council, including at the COVAX AMC Summit. I hope to see new commitments from other countries at the virtual Global COVID-19 Summit on May 12th.

If our efforts fail, ACT-A partners and countries will be hindered in promoting equity in access to vaccines, treatments, and tests.  

Two years into the pandemic, we should also start thinking about what happens next, after ACT-A. We must assess the lessons learned from how we have handled this pandemic.

We should ask ourselves:

How do we further manage COVID-19 in our health systems?

How can we ensure that we are better prepared and more responsive to new infectious threats in the future?

Our considerations should include, but not be limited to:

  • the need to improve our surveillance system, and how we share information;
  • how we can achieve effective coordination between all relevant actors in our global health architecture;
  • how we can secure equitable procurement of vaccines, medicines, and diagnostic tools;
  • and, finally, how we can secure a more sustainable financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.

The inequities related to COVID-19, the direct and indirect consequences of the war in Ukraine, and other conflicts, all put a strain on international relations. However, as we are facing multiple global challenges at once, I cannot think of a way to overcome them without more global cooperation, not less.

Thank you for your attention.