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World leaders urged to make firm commitments at Second Global COVID-19 Summit

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Posted: Wednesday, May 11, 2022. 9:00 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: A team of agency leaders in the fight against COVID-19, including Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged world leaders meeting this week for the Second Global COVID-19 Summit to “make concrete commitments to vaccinate the world, save lives now and build better health security.”

The United States is co-hosting the summit with leaders of major international blocs including Belize, where Prime Minister John Briceno chairs the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The WHO’s estimates show that the overall death toll associated with COVID-19 was almost 15 million in two years – both persons who died from the disease and others from associated effects. With worldwide reported cases falling, now is the time to intensify efforts to eradicate the pandemic, not declare it over.

New global targets must be set for vaccination coverage, testing rates, and access to treatment including oral antivirals and oxygen, which will in turn mitigate economic fallout and focus the world on reversing lost progress against other diseases and immunization.

At present, the group says, testing rates are falling 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; just over 15 percent of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine, complicating the target of 70 percent worldwide coverage and full coverage of at-risk groups.

The ACT-Accelerator team published a strategic plan and budget in October 2021 to address these inequities. There has been concrete progress on all fronts – but the partnership still faces a huge financing gap; at 6 months into our new budget cycle, just over 10 percent of financing needs have been met. Three months ago, it launched our financing framework with ‘fair share’ asks of the world’s richest countries, calculated based on the size of their national economies 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 percent of their fair share – but we need more.

Countries are juggling multiple competing health, economic, and social priorities, but they will drop all of these balls if the pandemic is prolonged and allowed to flare up again. New Omicron subvariants are driving up deaths and hospitalizations even in places of high immunity, they say, necessitating more investment in research and development.

The group concludes, “We cannot afford to delay anymore. Lives, economies, and global health security depend on the outcome of this Summit. This week, we urge world leaders, the private sector, philanthropists, civil society, and other stakeholders to make the firm, substantive commitments needed to save lives, turn the tide, and secure the future for all.”

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