I am deeply saddened and extremely concerned by the attack today on a humanitarian convoy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which left three people dead, including the Italian Ambassador to that country.
I would like to express my deepest condolences to their families as well as to the government and people of Italy.
On Friday, leaders from several G7 countries and the European Union committed 4.3 billion U.S. dollars in new funding to finance the equitable distribution of vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics for COVID-19.
Several G7 countries also committed to sharing doses with COVAX.
I would like to express my deep thanks to the G7 leaders for these contributions.
These funds and donations move us one step closer to meeting our target to start vaccination of health workers and older people in all countries within the first 100 days of the year.
The G7 countries have shown leadership, but we need all countries to step up.
We still face a gap of at least 22.9 billion dollars to fully finance the ACT Accelerator this year.
It’s important to note, however, that money is not the only challenge we face.
If there are no vaccines to buy, money is irrelevant.
Currently, some high-income countries are entering contracts with vaccine manufacturers that undermine the deals that COVAX has in place, and reduce the number of doses COVAX can buy.
Even if we have the funds, we can only deliver vaccines to poorer countries if high-income countries cooperate in respecting the deals COVAX has done, and the new deals it is doing.
This is not a matter of charity. It’s a matter of epidemiology.
Unless we end the pandemic everywhere, we will not end it anywhere.
The longer the virus circulates, the more opportunity it has to change in ways that could make vaccines less effective.
So it’s in the interest of all countries, including high-income countries, to ensure that health workers, older people and other at-risk groups are first in line for vaccines globally.
To achieve this, we need more funding, we need countries to share doses immediately, we need manufacturers to prioritize contracts with COVAX, and we also need a significant increase in the production of vaccines.
Recently I had a very productive discussion with President Emmanuel Macron of France, and I would like to thank him for his commitment to share 5% of France’s doses with COVAX.
More vaccines are being developed, approved and produced. There will be enough for everyone.
But for now and for the rest of this year, vaccines will be a limited resource. We must use them as strategically as we can.
Tomorrow I will be speaking at the Columbia University symposium on COVID-19 vaccine development, strategy and implementation.
Today I’m delighted to be joined by Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University.
The first major speech I gave after my election as Director-General in 2017 was at Columbia University, at the invitation of President Bollinger.
In that speech, I said that we do not know where or when the next global pandemic will occur, but we do know that it will exact a terrible toll, both on human life, and on the global economy.
More than three years later, we are unfortunately learning that lesson the hard way.
So President Bollinger, thank you so much for joining us today. You have the floor.
[PRESIDENT BOLLINGER ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, President Bollinger.
Our next guest needs no introduction. Dr Tony Fauci is one of the best-known names in global health, and for good reason.
For decades, Dr Fauci has not only been one of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, he has also been a fearless defender and articulate explainer of science and public health.
My friend Tony, thank you for your leadership over so many years, and especially during the past year. And thank you for joining us today. You have the floor.
[DR FAUCI ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you so much, Tony.
And finally, it’s my honour to welcome Dr Nancy Messonnier, the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr Messonnier is leading the CDC’s efforts on COVID-19 vaccination, and is one of the world’s leading experts on vaccination.
Among many other achievements, she played a vital role in the development and implementation of a low-cost vaccine to prevent epidemic meningococcal meningitis in Africa.
Dr Messonnier, thank you so much for joining us today. You have the floor.
[DR MESSONNIER ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]
Thank you, Dr Messonnier. And thank you to all of our guests for joining us today.
As we often say, it’s not vaccines that save lives, it’s vaccination.
In 1796, Edward Jenner administered the first vaccine against smallpox.
It took another 184 years for smallpox to be eradicated.
In combination with proven public health measures, vaccines give us the tools to control COVID-19. Whether we can is no longer a test of science; it’s a test of character.