The World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups on Thursday asked leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies to fund a $ 23.4 billion plan to bring COVID-19 vaccines, tests and drugs to countries. poorest in the next 12 months.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the Group of 20, whose leaders will meet in Rome at the weekend, had the political and financial power necessary to end the pandemic by funding the plan, which he said would it could save five million lives.
The latest update of the so-called COVID-19 Access Tool Accelerator (ACT-A), until September 2022, is expected to include the use of an experimental oral antiviral pill manufactured by Merck & Co for the treatment of mild and moderate cases. .
If the pill is approved by regulatory authorities, the cost could be as low as $ 10 per course, depending on the plan, according to a preliminary document seen by Reuters earlier this month.
“The request is for $ 23.4 billion. That’s a good amount of money, but compared to the damage that the pandemic also caused to the world economy, it’s actually not that much, ”Carl Bildt, WHO special envoy to the ACT-Accelerator, previously said.
Bildt, a former Swedish prime minister, acknowledged that ACT-A has had trouble securing prior funding.
“I hope and urge that the G20 commit to ending the pandemic,” Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere, whose country is co-chairing the fundraising effort, told the news conference.
Equal budgets of $ 7 billion are allocated for vaccines and diagnostic tests, with an additional $ 5.9 billion to boost health systems and $ 3.5 billion for treatments including antivirals, corticosteroids, and medical oxygen.
Tedros noted at the briefing that global cases were increasing for the first time in two months, driven by Europe.
COVAX, the vaccine arm of ACT-A, has delivered some 400 million doses of COVID-19 to more than 140 low- and middle-income countries, where vaccination rates remain low, said the WHO chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan.
Some 82 countries are likely not meeting the WHO global goal of 40% vaccination coverage by the end of the year, but some of them could do so if supplies start to flow, he said.
“One of the things that is interfering in a major way now is the need for boosters, more and more high-income countries are opting for booster doses and this is now absorbing the vaccine doses as well,” Swaminathan added.
Nearly a million booster doses are given every day, “three times the number of vaccines given in low-income countries,” he said.
Referring to India, which resumed “relatively modest” COVID-19 vaccine exports this month after suspending them in April due to its internal epidemic, Swaminathan said: “I think these volumes coming out of India will increase significantly.”
The US Food and Drug Administration is considering emergency use authorization for molnupiravir, the antiviral pill that Merck has developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. It was shown in a clinical trial to cut the risk of severe illness and death in half when given early for COVID-19.
“This is a drug that we are currently evaluating and we met with Merck on Friday to discuss data from their current clinical trials that are ongoing in other countries,” said Maria van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID, adding that the agency expected to issue guidance on its use in the coming weeks.