As you know, this week is the World Health Assembly – the annual meeting of nations to discuss common health challenges and agree on a common way forward.
The range of issues being discussed is immense: from diabetes to malaria, disabilities, oral health and much, much more.
And of course, COVID-19 has been the focus of a lot of discussion.
There has been broad consensus this week that equitable access to vaccines is essential for ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
With over 3.5 million recorded deaths from COVID-19, an estimated loss to the global economy of 22 trillion US dollars and new variants compounding explosive outbreaks, this pandemic is far from over.
In my opening remarks on Monday, I called on world leaders to support a massive push to vaccinate at least 10% of the population of every country by September, and 30% by the end of the year.
Our “sprint to September” goal means we must vaccinate at least 250 million more people in low- and middle-income countries, including all health workers and the most at-risk groups as the first priority.
If countries immediately share doses with COVAX, and if manufacturers prioritize COVAX, we can reach this target and save a lot of lives.
Ultimately, the fastest way to bring this pandemic to an end is to dramatically increase global manufacturing of vaccines, tests, treatments and other medical supplies, and ensure equitable access.
A year ago, the President of Costa Rica, His Excellency Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and more than 40 Heads of State joined WHO to form C-TAP, the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool.
C-TAP draws on the experience of the Medicines Patent Pool, and provides a single platform where innovators of COVID-19 health products can voluntarily share knowledge and technologies with quality-assured manufacturers.
C-TAP is based on a proven method.
Voluntary, non-exclusive licenses issued through the Medicines Patent Pool, have saved lives by scaling up manufacturing for treatments against HIV, TB and other diseases.
We welcome the interest expressed by several diagnostic manufacturers who are already in advanced discussions with C-TAP to share their technology.
And also from research institutions who are willing to share their knowledge through C-TAP.
But we need more developers to come forward and share life-saving tools so that we can ramp up production and expand access.
Originator companies that contribute their knowledge to C-TAP can quickly access the production capacity they need to manufacture enough for everyone, while collecting appropriate royalties.
Contributions to C-TAP are voluntary, transparent and non-exclusive, allowing multiple qualified producers around the world to manufacture COVID-19 health products.
Once agreements are signed, C-TAP will support companies in the management of signed agreements for effective implementation and provide technical assistance to countries when needed.
Once fully functional, C-TAP assisting in the expansion of manufacturing could provide increased supply for countries and COVAX.
Today, I am honoured to be joined by the thought leader behind C-TAP, His Excellency Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica.
The President and I issued an open letter yesterday, calling on all countries to support C-TAP.
Governments can play a lead role in creating incentives for industry to support our effort.
Your Excellency, thank you for your leadership and welcome.
You have the floor.
[PRESIDENT ALVARADO ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you for those comments, I couldn’t agree more that in this moment of acute need, we must utilize all solutions to boost manufacturing capacity.
Next, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the Honourable Arancha González Laya, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs for the European Union and Cooperation.
Minister González Laya, you have the floor.
[MINISTER GONZALEZ LAYA ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Minister González Laya.
By joining C-TAP this month, Spain has made a very important statement to the world about the need to enhance vaccine equity.
I now turn to your compatriot, Professor Jesús Marco, Vice-President of the Spanish National Research Council.
Professor Marco, you have the floor.
[PROFESSOR MARCO ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Professor. You are right that publicly-funded research plays a key role in the development of health technologies and in the midst of a pandemic, now is the moment to share them fairly.
Next, we are joined by the Honourable Meryame Kitir, the Minister of Development Cooperation of Belgium.
Minister Kitir, the floor is yours.
[MINISTER KITIR ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you for those kind words, Minister Kitir. Belgium has a key role to play to ensure that everything possible is happening in the EU and across the world for the equitable production and rollout of tests, treatments and vaccines.
Next, I’m pleased to introduce the Honourable Budi Gunadi Sadikin, the Minister of Health of Indonesia.
Minister Gunadi Sadikin, you have the floor.
[MINISTER GUNADI SADIKIN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you Minister, it’s not often we’re joined by nuclear physicists.
You’re right that in South East Asia, some countries are under enormous pressure and we appreciate your readiness to contribute to scale up production of health products.
As you’ve seen today, C-TAP is backed by a significant number of country leaders, researchers and companies from around the world.
Civil society organizations have also supported C-TAP strongly, and I thank them for that.
We’re holding the door open for pharmaceutical companies that have become household names, although too few households have benefited from the life-saving tools they have developed.
They control the IP that can save lives today, end this pandemic soon and prevent future epidemics from spiralling out of control and undermining health, economies and national security.
The major gap is originator companies, but I believe that with the right political will and the right incentives, we can see an increase in collaboration and pooling that would help end this pandemic.