Call for G20 Leaders to Take Pandemic Action

Ahead of this year’s G20 Leaders’ Summit, over 50 global, regional, national, and local organizations are calling on leaders to put forward actions that ensure everyone has the tools to curb COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics. As health crises continue to set development progress back, impact our economies, and undermine the world’s ability to tackle other global challenges, joint and coordinated measures, policies, and investments remain urgent and necessary. 

While Indonesia’s G20 Presidency has advanced key agreements and proposals on PPR — such as the new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (known as the Pandemic Fund) — there are further opportunities within reach for breaking the cycle of “panic and neglect” on pandemics. The Annual Meetings provide a critical opportunity to reassert leadership, deliver finance at scale, and kick-start the package of measures needed to pandemic-proof our world. 

Specifically, the group of organizations call on G20 Leaders to:

  • Deliver finance at scale for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
    1. Channel US$100 billion in special drawing rights (SDRs) to the IMF’s Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST).
    2. Release a roadmap to unlock new lending from multilateral development banks (MDBs).
  • Invest in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response — with equity at its heart.
    1. Meet the Pandemic Fund’s US$10.5 billion target and advance a sustainable funding plan.
    2. Fund the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) 2.0, FIND — the global alliance for diagnostics — and public health institutes.
    3. Fund and support the Global Fund, Gavi, and other organizations also crucial to PPR. 
  • Prevent and prepare for the next pandemic by fixing gaps in the system and in policies.
    1. Endorse the creation of a high-level body to tackle global health threats and advance its set up through the UN High-Level Meeting for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response in 2023.
    2. Ensure equitable access to pandemic countermeasures and initiate a process to address this gap now and for the future
    3. Reinforce the importance of a One Health approach.

Outbreaks can be prevented, and new pathogens can be contained — but ongoing pandemics are a political choice. Decisive leadership can deliver a path to health security for people worldwide, where most outbreaks can be prevented, and new pathogens can be contained. We already know the solutions and investments required. Against the consequences and harm of pandemics, their cost is not only modest but is also much less considering the human, economic, and health dividends they reap. 

Read the full letter. If your organization would like to sign the letter to G20 Leaders, please reach out to Aminata

 

Shock and Gloom — But a Window of Political Opportunity?

The World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings came back in full force and in person Oct. 10-16, with road closures and large black security vehicles once again clogging streets of downtown Washington, D.C. As a veteran of the meetings and a global health and development advocate the week left me in turn feeling depressed, bewildered, and cautiously hopeful.  

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

  • Shock and gloom. The revised projections for global economic growth from the IMF were pretty dire: a sharp slowdown from 6% in 2021 to 3.2% in 2022, and set to decline again in 2023, with inflation rates higher than in several decades and triggering an acute cost-of-living crisis. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva minced no words about the dangers afoot, saying there has been “shock after shock after shock” leading to historic fragility, a likely recession, and expectations of a global output loss of about US$4 trillion (about the size of Germany’s economy) over the next four years. The new edition of the World Bank’s Poverty and Shared Prosperity report found that since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, progress toward reducing global poverty has essentially halted and global inequality  increased. The headline on the World Bank’s own website — Development in Crisis — pretty much sums it up.
  • What pandemic? There was much hand wringing on what to do about the worsening poly-crises confronting the world today. Among the headlines were the launch of the IMF’s new Food Shock Window and the World Bank’s Second Ministerial Roundtable on Support for Ukraine, while the discussion at the Development Committee focused around two papers on the Food and Energy Crisis: Weathering the Storm and Achieving the Climate and Development Goals: The Financing Question. Notably absent from the conversations and commitments, however, was the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (and when it did get a mention, it was mostly referred to in the past tense). A few important exceptions were the excellent speeches at the Center for Global Development delivered by three women leaders: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Indonesian Minister of Finance Sri Mulyani, and German Minister for Economic Cooperation Svenja Schulze, all of whom highlighted the need to increase investments in pandemic preparedness. There was also a spotlight on the learning losses as a result of prolonged pandemic-related school closures.
  • Next generation of protests. Two decades ago, protests were a common sight outside the Spring and Annual Meetings, pressing for debt relief and an end to structural adjustment and globalization. In the wake of major policy shifts like the adoption of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, increased disclosure and stronger accountability mechanisms, and the inclusion of civil society in the Meetings which I was proud to help facilitate over time those protests had largely shifted to constructive dialogue. The protesters were back on the streets (and in the building) this year, once again demanding debt cancellation and climate action further fueled by World Bank President David Malpass’ widely criticized comments during the United Nations General Assembly.
  • A few billion here and there. Recent Annual and Spring Meetings had produced some significant commitments to help countries struggling to cope with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, namely through a general allocation of special drawing rights (SDRs) equivalent to US$650 billion and creation of a Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) at the IMF to be funded by channeling SDRs from wealthy countries to low- and lower-middle-income countries. Georgieva announced that the RST was now operational with US$37billion in pledges (of which US$20 billion has been delivered thus far) and that agreements had been reached for the first three countries — Barbados, Costa Rica, and Rwanda — to receive support from the RST. Also in September, the World Bank formally launched a new Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Fund). With less than US$1.5 billion pledged so far and a first call for proposals not slated until late this year or early next, the Pandemic Fund still has a long way to go to reach the annual financing target of more than US$10 billion to close critical preparedness gaps and achieve its transformative potential. We are told more donors and pledges are expected soon, yet discussions on a sustainable financing pathway are some months away. But, on the bright side…
  • Reform is in the air. An undercurrent across the Meetings was that the two Bretton Woods Institutions created in 1944, are no longer fit-for-purpose  in 2022 to address a “world on fire” as the Vulnerable 20 (V-20) group of nations put it at their ministerial. Secretary Yellen set the stage with her pre-Meetings call to action to “rethink our overall development finance strategy” and “evolve our multilateral development bank (MDB) system” to meet this moment of unprecedented global challenges with the highly interconnected threats of climate change, pandemics, and fragility topping the priority list. Variations on this theme were echoed throughout the week by an array of leaders including former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, Schulze, and many others. The wonky-sounding Independent Review of the MDB Capital Adequacy Frameworks, commissioned by the G20, gained support for a set of actionable MDB reforms that could unlock hundreds of billions of dollars in additional capital for global public goods. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley also doubled down on her call to leaders from the global South and North to come together and build a movement around the Bridgetown Agenda to modernize the international financial institutions with “the urgency of now”.   The conversation moved beyond the  rhetoric: A coalition of countries led by Germany G7+ Presidency requested the World Bank management to produce a roadmap for reform by December this year.

Will any of this actually lead to significant change? Time will tell, but something feels different. Pandemic Action Network is committed to heed Prime Minister Mottley’s call to action and help build the political will and the movement to make it happen. One thing we are sure of: From the climate crisis to the COVID-19 crisis to the next pandemic, the world can’t afford to wait.   

 

Pandemic Action Network Statement on the Biden-Harris Administration’s New National Biodefense Strategy

Pandemic Action Network welcomes the U.S. Biden-Harris Administration’s launch of the National Biodefense Strategy and Implementation Plan for Countering Biological Threats, Enhancing Pandemic Preparedness, and Achieving Global Health Security and the signing of National Security Memorandum-15 (NSM-15).

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and Ebola and other deadly infectious disease threats are escalating around the world. The new National Biodefense Strategy rightly sounds the alarm on the urgent need to bolster our national and international defenses against biological threats and accelerate investments in pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response as core priorities for our national security,” said Carolyn Reynolds, co-founder, Pandemic Action Network.  

“As the new strategy affirms, it’s a myth that we can wall off the United States from dangerous biothreats, and it’s time for the U.S. and the world to get serious about treating pandemics as the existential and systemic threat they pose to humanity. By taking a comprehensive, integrated domestic and global approach and laying out specific targets and timelines for implementation, this whole-of-government strategy is an important step forward in that direction. Yet, none of this will be possible without robust, long-term funding to build and maintain our vigilance and readiness. Biodefense must be a bipartisan priority, and Congress must move swiftly to provide the necessary funding to fully implement this strategy.”

What is the Future of the Global Health Security Agenda?

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) was launched in 2014 to drive multilateral, multi-sector prioritization and coordination of global health security. By definition, GHSA was designed to enhance country capacities to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks; emphasize global health security as a national leader-level priority and galvanize high-level commitments to global health security; promote multi-sectoral engagement and collaboration; and focus on common, measurable targets.

The GHSA is now at an inflection point. While GHSA has built a strong community, the COVID-19 pandemic has also stress-tested domestic and global health systems and raised questions about the reach, relevance, and impact of this partnership. Despite its success as a forum for collaboration and incubator for health security concepts and networks, GHSA has been less visible as part of the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, missing an important opportunity to activate its coordination mechanisms to support global policy discussions on the future of the global health security architecture.

As the GHSA 2024 Framework enters its final year in 2023 — and as global leaders advance a range of instruments and mechanisms to make the world safer from emerging pandemic threats — now is the time to reflect on the lessons learned from the GHSA and its role in the evolving global health security architecture. The establishment of the Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response (Pandemic Fund) at the World Bank, the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body on a Pandemic Instrument at the World Health Organization (WHO), and the UN General Assembly’s resolution to hold a High-level Meeting on Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response in 2023 all offer new promise to elevate the health security agenda. In light of these developments, GHSA members should reach a clear decision on the future of the partnership by the end of 2022 and ensure that the GHSA both informs, and is informed by, decisions made in these other fora, as part of a more systemic set of reforms to strengthen global health security and governance. 

Developed in partnership with the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium, NTI:bio, and Pandemic Action Network, this paper draws on reflections and feedback from a wide range of stakeholders engaged in global health security to assess the successes, challenges, and constraints of the GHSA’s structure and make recommendations for its future and the future of multi-stakeholder engagement for health security.

Read the full paper

Misinformation in the Era of Pandemics

Of all the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that will have far-reaching and long-term health impact is the worrying rise in anti-vaccine sentiment. We know that COVID has had a dramatic impact on vaccine confidence, but that faltering confidence is unfortunately not limited to the COVID vaccine. New research and data show that misinformation and distrust surrounding the COVID vaccine has spilled over to other routine vaccines, such as measles, resulting in decreasing vaccination rates and increasing the risk of outbreaks. At the root of this trend is a pervasive and increasingly powerful engine of misinformation.

Vaccine misinformation is not new, but COVID has made it more mainstream and profitable. In the U.S., the archetype of the original anti-vaxxer was a parent opting for a more “natural” lifestyle for their children, but since the politicization of vaccines, the movement has gained traction, particularly among white conservatives. Anti-vaccine Google searches have also increased during the pandemic, peaking after various WHO announcements. Support for getting a COVID vaccine varies by region — 74.8% in West and Central Africa and 97.2% in Asia Pacific region — while vaccine confidence in the U.S. has decreased by 20% since the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to NPR, “articles connecting vaccines and death have been among the most highly engaged with content online this year.” And, what is fueling this surge in anti-vaccine misinformation? Profit. The anti-vaccine industry boasts annual revenues of at least US$36 million, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

These days, many people including parents rely on the internet for medical information, but the facts are not the only thing they are finding. Studies show that “using the internet and social media as a source was associated with vaccine hesitancy.” In one study, 45% of parents who relied on the internet for vaccine information were vaccine hesitant, and parents who rely on the internet for vaccine information were significantly associated with vaccine hesitancy.

What does this mean for global health? 

  • In the short term, we are seeing more outbreaks of preventable diseases and thus more preventable deaths. Measles cases in January and February of 2022 surged 79% worldwide compared to the same time last year. 
  • Long term, this trend points to severe consequences. Outbreaks of measles or polio would divert staff and funds away from other health crises and be very expensive, with vaccine-preventable diseases posing an economic burden of US$9 billion in 2015 alone. Rather than focusing on R&D for new treatments or emerging diseases, we will be diverting funds to solve outbreaks that were preventable in the first place, wasting valuable time and resources.  

So what can we do to stop this wave of vaccine misinformation? Vaccine misinformation and hesitancy varies by community, so responses must be tailored and specific

  • To learn more about who is funding vaccine misinformation efforts and how governments are responding, check out the Center for Countering Digital Hate.
  • You can sign their petition calling on major technology companies to take action and remove vaccine misinformation along with superspreaders from their sites. 
  • For more information on vaccine education efforts, check out our resource hub on vaccine education.

In our global society and communications landscape, we cannot ignore the rising tide of health misinformation. Just like a virus, what starts with misinformation about one disease in one community, can quickly evolve to infect other communities around the world.

 

It’s About Time: Pandemic Action Network Statement on Welcoming the UNGA Resolution on a High-Level Meeting for Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness, and Response

Pandemic Action Network welcomes the resolution adopted by Member States today at the United Nations General Assembly calling for a high-level meeting on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. 

Such a high-level meeting of political leaders is long overdue in the wake of a deadly pandemic that has cost millions of lives and trillions in economic losses and has setback decades of progress in health and societal outcomes. Since its inception in early 2020, Pandemic Action Network has been calling for a high-level UN meeting to address the urgent priorities of pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response at the highest political levels. While sometime before September 2023 is better than nothing, we urge leaders from every nation to prioritize this high-level meeting and make sure it lays the foundations to elevate, accelerate, and sustain efforts to combat pandemic threats at national, regional, and global levels. 

This initial meeting, which should kickstart accountability measures, must be followed with a sustained series of high-level meetings to commit to the actions needed. The creation of a high-level council to tackle global health threats at the heads of state and government levels, inclusive of civil society and the private sector, should be one of the meeting’s primary aims. Such a council is much needed to ensure speedy and coordinated international action and accountability to address both existing and emerging pandemic threats.

As we now navigate this era of pandemics amidst pandemic fatigue, this high-level meeting is more urgent than ever.

Statement on the Introduction of the Senate FY23 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Legislation

Statement by Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder Carolyn Reynolds

“The Senate FY23 State and Foreign Operations (SFOPs) bill tabled today takes meaningful steps toward urgently needed new investments in global health security, pandemic preparedness, and the global COVID-19 response. Critically, the Senate bill takes action on long overdue emergency funding — US$5 billion — to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The amount remains far short of the global needs, but is a needed investment to help deliver vaccines to the last mile and help countries adapt to the current stage of this persistent pandemic that continues to upend lives and livelihoods around the world. Our Network is pleased to see that the bill’s emergency title makes meaningful down payments of US$950 million in pandemic preparedness priorities, including up to US$550 million for the Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Preparedness at the World Bank (Pandemic Fund). If approved, this would bring total U.S. contributions to the Fund this calendar year to US$1 billion, and set the bar for partner countries to marshal the US$10 billion needed annually to deliver on the promise of this historic Fund.  

While less than the US$1 billion for global health security in President Biden’s budget request or the FY23 House bill, the Senate’s US$745 million allocation for global health security programs also protects meaningful increases in this account from FY22 that will allow USAID and State to expand efforts to help countries build and sustain capacities to detect, prevent, and respond to emerging disease threats before they become emergencies — including through investments in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation (CEPI) and the Pandemic Fund. 

We urge Congress to move past pandemic fatigue and prioritize these investments to help stop the spread of COVID and to make America and the world safer from emerging pandemic threats. The pieces are there — now we need leadership and action.”

Launching a New Pandemic Preparedness Fund: A Crack in the Cycle of Panic and Neglect?

Read the full analysis here on csis.org.

We are in a fragile, yet promising moment when it comes to heeding the lessons of the COVID-19 crisis. But a chance to begin to break the cycle of crisis and complacency and strengthen global security is finally within our reach, with the emergence of an international coalition to increase financing for pandemic preparedness. A new CSIS commentary from Carolyn Reynolds and J. Stephen Morrison discusses how the creation of a new Pandemic Preparedness Fund offers a near-term opportunity to mobilize significant new investments that are unlikely to happen otherwise, by using catalytic grant financing to close critical gaps in preparedness. Pivotal decisions remain to ensure that the fund has clearly defined strategic priorities that advance shared security interests; expands the pool of funding available for pandemic preparedness and response by tapping creative additional sources beyond official development assistance; and is steered by a decisive governing body. Strong U.S. leadership and financial commitment, bridging the U.S. administration and Congress, and resting on a durable bipartisan consensus, will be the single most important factor in moving the fund from its infancy into an instrument with the long-term vision, clear and unique purpose, and legitimacy to deliver rapid and sustainable results. Just as the United States led the world two decades ago to launch PEPFAR and the Global Fund to combat the global AIDS crisis, the United States should now lead and rally the world to launch this new fund and help prevent the next pandemic.

Read the full analysis here on csis.org.

 

Falling Short: Pandemic Action Network Statement on the 2022 G7 Leaders’ Summit

G7 Leaders fell far short of what is needed to finish the job on COVID-19 and prevent the next pandemic. Leaders are facing compounding and intertwined crises, but this is no time to deprioritize health security, which is fundamental to addressing virtually every other crisis facing humanity. This year’s G7 Leaders’ Summit represents a missed opportunity to take decisive action and fundamentally shift the G7’s record on pandemic preparedness and response.   Instead, we saw more of the “same strategy but different day” cycle of rearranging recommendations and commitments.

On finance, G7 Leaders collectively failed to deliver adequate financing to fund the provision of tests and treatments and delivery of vaccines still needed in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While we are pleased that the U.K. joined other G7 countries by pledging funding for the emerging global Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response fund at the World Bank, we need to hear that founding partners are committed to an inclusive, representative future fund which will include LMICs, communities, and civil society in its governance from the outset as well as equity in its decision-making. Overall, we need to see a commitment to investing in these ongoing priorities by growing the global pool of funding available for pandemic preparedness and response.

On governance, leaders also missed an opportunity to elevate leadership on pandemic preparedness and response by endorsing the creation of a Global Health Threats Council — as proposed by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — and laying the groundwork for a broader coalition of countries and leaders. A political mechanism of this kind is essential to sustain action and investment across countries and advance ambitious proposals, such as those described in the G7’s Pact for Pandemic Readiness

As the G7 focuses on the world’s stability with commitments on climate and food security, proactively preparing for pandemics must be a part of that mix. These existential threats are interconnected. Accelerating climate change means the world is more likely to experience future outbreaks with more regularity. Whether such outbreaks become pandemics or can be quashed in time hinges on the political choices leaders are making right now. And today, the G7 chose complacency and stagnation over progress when it comes to pandemic preparedness.

We urge the G7 to take forward the Pact for Pandemic Readiness and turn it into action with urgency in the remaining six months of this year and beyond. The COVID crisis has laid bare the costs of inaction. We cannot afford to move on without learning the lessons over the last two years — particularly for the most vulnerable and LMIC populations, many of whom still lack access to lifesaving tests, treatments and vaccines. 

The current and future G7 presidencies of Germany and Japan must prioritize getting bold pandemic preparedness and COVID-19 response action back on track as a key part of addressing the world’s interlocking crises — they simply cannot afford not to. Click To Tweet

Call for African Leaders to Support the Pandemic Fund

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the devastating impact that epidemics and pandemics can have on the health, security, and prosperity of Africans. It has accentuated the need for a New Public Health Order for Africa — championed by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) — not in the least because of the gross global inequities in access to medical tools including vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and other lifesaving medical countermeasures and supplies that have played out during this pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has also underscored the need for Africa to build more resilient health systems and collaborate across borders to be able to prevent, detect, and respond to emerging health threats while addressing ongoing health priorities. 

African civil society organizations (CSOs) have come together to urge leaders of African governments to pledge their support for the proposed new Pandemic Preparedness Fund at the World Bank and to ensure that the Fund advances the aims of the New Public Health Order for Africa through equitable and multilateral support. If well-resourced, the Fund has the potential to be a transformative new source of financing to advance Africa’s health security and to prevent the next pandemic. 

Read the full letter. If your organization is interested in signing on, please reach out to Hanna

 

Call for G7 Leaders to Take Pandemic Action!

Ahead of this month’s G7 Leaders’ Summit and in the face of multiple global challenges, civil society groups (CSOs) from around the world urge G7 Leaders to take action on pandemics to both align the global response to make COVID-19 a controllable respiratory disease across all countries and step up efforts to prepare the world against the next pandemic threat. 

While the outcomes of the last Global COVID-19 Summit and G7 Ministerial Meetings showed renewed political commitment and a much needed reset to the global response, ending this pandemic still demands further action. As noted in May’s G7 Foreign, Health, and Development Ministers communiqués, the pandemic won’t be over until it is over for all. Echoing their words, nearly 40 CSOs call on G7 Leaders to invest now to end the current crisis and prevent the next, including by addressing poverty and inequality as barriers to ending pandemics and through investment in national health capacity and community systems.

Three priority actions:

  1. Fill the financing gaps to advance the delivery of COVID-19 tools still needed such as tests and treatments, increasing transparency to foster coordination and enhance value for money. 
  2. Advance new, equitable, inclusive, and innovative sources of financing for pandemic preparedness and response, including through the new Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness Fund.
  3. Build on the G7 Pact for Pandemic Readiness Concept Note of May 20 to drive support for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach to pandemic preparedness.

The CSOs also strongly urge G7 Leaders to capitalize on the opportunity at the G7 Summit to publicly endorse the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s recommendation to establish a Global Health Threats Council and commit to advancing the proposal during the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.

Read the full letter. If your organization would like to sign on, contact Hanna by June 21.

Three Key Areas for Pandemic Action at the World Health Assembly

Last week’s second Global COVID-19 Summit challenged the growing complacency around the pandemic with commitments from over 35 countries as well as from the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society. Next up, this year’s 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) will be a crucial opportunity to build on that momentum and rally more countries and leaders around a truly global framework to prevent, prepare, and respond to pandemic threats.

Here are three of the key priorities that Pandemic Action Network will be following during these essential debates:

  1. WHO’s vision and role in the global health security architecture

At WHA75, the World Health Organization (WHO) will put forward its vision for Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience (HEPR). Broadly speaking, Pandemic Action Network is aligned with WHO’s vision for a stronger global architecture that focuses on improving governance, systems, and financing, grounded in the principles of equity, inclusion, and coherence (read our feedback) but we also think the framework is too WHO-centric. The last two years have shown that leadership and coordination for pandemic preparedness and response must extend beyond WHO, and beyond the health sector. That’s why we support the proposal to establish a governance body at the level of Heads of Government such as a Global Health Threats Council/Global Health Emergency Council — as supported by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (the Independent Panel) and the G20 High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons (HLIP). Pandemic threats must be recognized as the security and economic priorities they are, and translate to leadership and accountability at the highest level. We also think the principle of inclusion must apply not only to all countries, but also to non-state actors (NSAs) — like our Network partners — around the world. We’ll be watching for the final report from the Director-General, the reactions from Member States, and whether low- and middle-income countries and NSAs have an opportunity to be part of the discussions going forward.

  1. Sustainable financing for WHO

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that there is a major discrepancy between the expectations we have of WHO and its level of funding. Increasing WHO’s assessed contributions up to 50% of its budget is likely to be one of the most significant policy decisions we hope to see adopted at the WHA75. While the proposal is certainly not as ambitious as we and others have been urging  — both in terms of amount and time frame for implementation (countries will have many years to increase their assessed contributions) — it will be an important long overdue step. A stronger WHO is in the interest of all governments and their citizens. Investments in WHO produce an estimated economic return of US$35 for every $1 invested. The agreement to improve WHO’s financing model should not only lead to a WHO with increased capacity to detect, prevent, and respond to pandemic threats, but also to one that is more agile, transparent, and accountable. (For a deeper dive on this, watch our conversation with Björn Kümmel, Chair of WHO’s Working Group on Sustainable Financing). We’ll be watching to see if countries are willing to start paying their fair share toward building a healthier, safer world.

  1. Progress on reform of the International Health Regulations (IHRs)

Also looming large is the decision on proposed amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHRs). The IHRs (last updated in 2005) underpin the current international system to govern and drive the world’s response to global health emergencies. A proposal from the U.S. to fast-track amendments to the IHRs and give WHO greater powers in the face of emerging global health threats and potential pandemics drew significant pushback amid concerns about sovereignty. As of May 16, however, it looks like the most controversial amendments will be tabled for a longer country negotiation process, leaving mostly procedural changes on timelines for adoption at WHA75. If this sticks, it’s disappointing but not surprising, as it underscores a persistent lack of urgency and ambition to fix some of the systemic problems that resulted in this deadly pandemic. While not a silver bullet, targeted amendments to the IHRs are a necessary step toward greater accountability for improved pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response. We hold out hope that there will be some consensus around speeding up the reform process, both for the IHRs and on the range of other priorities Member States have been discussing in the Working Group for Preparedness and Response over the past year. 

One year ago, the Independent Panel called for bold action to make COVID-19 the last pandemic. Now, one year later, as the WHA75 comes together, the Panel’s former co-chairs have issued a scathing progress — or lack-of-progress report — that calls out inaction and incrementalism to date. 

Say the Panel co-chairs, Helen Clark and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:The work underway to transform the international system lacks coherence, urgency, and focus. Reform proposals are being deliberated in different fora, but are not sufficiently connected, and remain still largely stuck in processes that will take years to deliver.”

Sadly, we have to agree. We hope that this year’s critical WHA75 can reverse some of that inertia and serve as a reminder that humanity deserves leadership that is willing to make a pandemic-proof future both a priority and a reality. 

Feedback to WHO’s Director-General on Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience

At the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA), the World Health Organization (WHO) will put forward its vision for strengthening capacities for pandemic preparedness and response through a report from the Director-General on Strengthening the Global Architecture for Health Emergency Preparedness, Response and Resilience (HEPR). The report intends to provide a new overarching integrated framework for all the health emergency reforms and processes underway and define the role of WHO.

Recently, as a part of the advance consultation process, Pandemic Action Network submitted feedback to inform the final report that will be delivered at the WHA. Pandemic Action Network supports the overall framing of WHO’s vision for a stronger global architecture that focuses on the critical reforms needed for governance, systems, and financing. This framing mirrors the Network’s strategic planning and reflections on challenges and opportunities at this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read our feedback across the three key areas of governance, systems, and financing and stay tuned for the final report from WHO.

Pandemic Action Network Statement on the Second Global COVID-19 Summit

The Second Global COVID-19 Summit showed a renewed commitment to end the COVID-19 crisis and prevent the next pandemic threat. Against complacency and pandemic fatigue, leaders from over 35 countries, the private sector, philanthropy, and civil society brought forward new actions and commitments — both financial and non-financial — to meet urgent needs across the summit’s priorities of vaccinating the world, protecting the most vulnerable, and preventing future pandemics. Financial commitments totaled almost US$3.2 billion, with approximately US$2.5 billion in funding from governments, and approximately US$700 million from the private sector, foundations, and other non-government actors.

Statement from Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

Today’s Global COVID-19 Summit was a win against complacency and has provided a much-needed shot in the arm for both the global COVID response and to begin to prepare the world for the next pandemic threat. We are pleased that the Summit has yielded important new commitments to vaccinate the world, save lives, and nearly US$1 billion to establish a new Fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness. This is a significant down payment and enables the World Bank to move forward on establishing the Fund this summer. But we must maintain the momentum beyond today and political leaders must stay in the fight. This pandemic is not over, and the world must move faster to deliver lifesaving tools and prepare for whatever variant or pandemic threat is coming next. The U.S. Congress must urgently approve additional funding for the global COVID response, and other governments and private and philanthropic partners must step up support for the response and for the Fund as soon as possible. 

Statement from Eloise Todd, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

World leaders‘ commitments at the Global COVID-19 Summit today have helped give a much-needed reset to the global COVID response. But without sustained and decisive action, the world could slip into permanent inequity between those that are able to be treated and vaccinated for COVID-19 and those that are not. All eyes are on global and regional bodies to see how they can build on today’s starting shot and deliver real progress by the G7 Summit at the end of June. 

As long championed by Pandemic Action Network, equity featured prominently in both reflections on the COVID-19 pandemic and in new commitments. We welcome commitments and new investments to close the funding gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), solve for last-mile vaccination delivery challenges, accelerate access to generic therapeutics, and diversify manufacturing and procurement of medical countermeasures to build strong and sustainable systems in every region of the world. 

Pandemic Action Network was also pleased to see political and financial support for a new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness from across sectors. As we double down to end the COVID-19 pandemic, we also must look ahead and prepare both for future COVID-19 variants and emerging disease threats. Government leaders from around the world stepped up today to support a new pandemic preparedness fund and advocated for the need to include diverse voices in the design and governance of a new fund. Financial commitments from the U.S., European Commission, Germany, and the Wellcome Trust total nearly US$1 billion, and represent a significant down payment toward the US$10 billion needed annually for this Fund.

But while today’s Summit serves as a needed jolt to the global COVID-19 effort, there is still much work to do. Today’s financial commitments for response sum just over US$2 billion, and while this funding is urgently needed, it’s long overdue and far short of the current ACT-A funding gap (nearly $US15 billion). It is critical that all governments and sectors step up and prioritize significant new resources to end the global COVID crisis — including the U.S. Congress and Administration working together to transcend politics and quickly pass at least US$5 billion for the global COVID-19 response. In addition, it is critical to heed the call from many African leaders for Gavi, the Global Fund, and other vaccine purchasers to prioritize purchases from African vaccine manufacturers to ensure new facilities are sustainable. It will also be important for a diversity of donors and stakeholders to commit to the new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness to ensure it is inclusive, representative, and effective. 

As we look ahead to the World Health Assembly, G7 and G20 Summits, and UN General Assembly, Pandemic Action Network will stay vigilant to make sure Summit commitments are realized and accountable, and that world leaders are collectively challenging themselves to do whatever it takes to end this crisis for everyone, everywhere.

Collective Commitment for the Second Global COVID-19 Summit

The following collective commitment was submitted on behalf of Pandemic Action Network for the Second Global COVID-19 Summit hosted on May 12, 2022.

Pandemic Action Network is a network of 257 organizations around the world driving collective action to bring an end to the COVID-19 crisis and to ensure the world is prepared for the next pandemic.

Pandemic Action Network is staying in this fight until the COVID crisis is ended for everyone, everywhere and sustainable systems are built at the global, regional, and national levels to proactively and equitably prevent, prepare for, and respond to future pandemic threats.

Pandemic Action Network commits to mobilize at least 100 new partners by the end of 2022, with an emphasis on organizations in lower- and middle-income countries, to advance the Summit goals to vaccinate the world, save lives now, and build back better for global health security and pandemic preparedness.

From now through the end of 2022, Pandemic Action Network and its global community of partners commit to: 

Vaccinate the World: Press governments, multilateral agencies, philanthropic and private sector partners to galvanize the necessary investments, coordination, and incentives to deliver vaccines that are still urgently needed in many parts of the world, including but not limited to closing the remaining funding gaps that have been identified for COVAX and the ACT-Accelerator. We will champion and support delivery of an accelerated, robust, and equitable global vaccination plan in support of national, regional, and global vaccination targets to achieve equitable global immunization levels.

Save Lives Now: Support efforts to drive forward a dynamic global test-to-treat strategy that applies lessons learned from the dramatic inequities in access to COVID-19 medical countermeasures and lifesaving tools. We will work to increase transparency on pricing and supply of tools to fight COVID-19, and make sure stakeholders prioritize access to testing, timely reporting, and treatments as the world transitions from crisis response to long-term sustainable preparedness for future surges of COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks.

Build Better Health Security: Mobilize political and financial commitments to stand-up and finance a dedicated new fund for global health security and pandemic preparedness. We will work with governments, the World Bank, WHO, philanthropy, private sector and civil society partners to design, launch, promote, and sustainably finance a fund that marshals significant new and sustainable resources for pandemic preparedness, as an inclusive and additive part of the global health architecture. 

In addition, Pandemic Action Network will promote cross-country and cross-regional cooperation, and sharing of best practices and lessons learned, to inform more effective and equitable pandemic preparedness and response plans and implementation. 

Pandemic Action Network will also maintain a steady drumbeat of advocacy, outreach, and civic engagement to keep all stakeholders — governments, private sector, philanthropy, academic, and civil society — accountable to their commitments and roles in building a healthier, safer future for all.

The Pandemic Action Network global community of partners commits to investing at least US$175 million between May and December 2022 toward these efforts, to help end the COVID-19 crisis and ensure the world is better prepared for the next pandemic.

Watch Pandemic Action Network’s submitted video commitment in advance of the Summit.

 

 

Calling for Urgent U.S. Action to Fund the Global COVID-19 Response

Statement by Pandemic Action Network Co-Founder, Carolyn Reynolds

“Once again, Congress is failing to advance urgently needed funding for the global COVID response, which means the U.S. will renege on its promises to vaccinate the world and save lives now. Refusing to treat COVID-19 as an active, deadly global emergency is a dereliction of U.S. leadership. The war in Ukraine and the global food crisis are clear and urgent needs — but so too is a global pandemic that continues to claim thousands of lives around the world each day. Every day funding for the global COVID response is delayed, more lives hang in the balance — and COVID will continue to pose a threat to Americans and to everyone on the planet. 

“Funding the global COVID response should not be constrained by partisan politics and deal-making. There has been a long-standing bipartisan commitment to U.S. global health and humanitarian response, and this issue should be no different. This should not even be a debate. Domestically and globally, we ignore the continuing COVID-19 crisis at our collective peril. There is no pandemic exit strategy for any country without a global strategy. We must push back against this dangerous inertia. Congress should act with the urgency that this crisis deserves and approve global COVID funding now.”

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A New Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness: Why, What, and How

Health experts from around the world have warned for years that countries, regional bodies, and global institutions must invest more in critical capacities to prevent, detect, and respond to epidemic and pandemic threats. In the wake of each global health emergency, leaders and experts have stressed the need to sustainably invest in and build capacity for health security at the local, regional, and global levels. While the International Health Regulations (IHRs) and Joint External Evaluations (JEEs) encourage capacity building and assess country-level readiness to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to disease threats, these instruments have not been paired with structural support or sustained financing. Given the legacy of panic-and-neglect funding for pandemics and the cross-border nature of these threats, many countries have not prioritized investments in preparedness, leaving the entire world vulnerable to novel disease threats. 

In 2022, global leaders from governments, multilateral institutions, philanthropy, private sector, and civil society must converge to design, launch, and mobilize significant resources for a new Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness, toward a target capitalization of $10 billion annually — reflecting conservative cost estimates and recommendations of leading global finance and health experts. 

The aim of this brief is to explain what a new fund should do, why the world needs it, and how it can augment and bolster the existing global health ecosystem.

Read the issue brief here.

Seizing the Moment: Global Action to End the COVID-19 Crisis and Prevent the Next Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. The rapid global spread of the omicron variant has transitioned the pandemic to a new phase that requires updating our strategy and priorities to ensure a more effective — and equitable — response.

We are at a pivotal moment: progress on the global response has slowed, and we risk further setbacks due to the convergence of multiple global security crises with pandemic fatigue and complacency. The post-omicron global strategy must evolve, and requires global solidarity, coordination, and commitment to address short- and long-term imperatives.

These imperatives resounded throughout our jointly convened dialogue, Global Call to Action: End the COVID-19 Crisis and Prevent the Next Pandemic, on March 29, 2022. Diverse speakers joined by over 400 participants from around the world collectively identified four priorities set in a declaration to meet global needs at this stage of the pandemic and build stronger, more resilient, and equitable systems for the future: 

  1. Accelerate equitable access to and acceptance of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, building for the future.
  2. Support country-led and community-driven goals and priorities, with global support strengthening national and regional systems and advancing equity.
  3. Build and invest now to pandemic proof the future for everyone, everywhere.
  4. Drive accountability at all levels and commit to global solidarity.

Read the joint declaration by Africa CDC, Amref Health Africa, African Population and Health Research Center, Organismo Andinode Salud, Cayetano Heredia University School of Public Health, Center for Indonesia’s Strategic Development Initiatives, COVID GAP, Pandemic Action Network, ONE Campaign, University of Ibadan College of Medicine, and WACI Health.

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The Network Effect on Pandemic Preparedness & Response

It has been two years of collective action. In April 2020, Pandemic Action Network formed to end the current pandemic as quickly as possible and ensure the world is prepared for the next one. 

Starting with 25 partners, the Network was built on a core operating assumption: Pandemics are too big, too numerous, and too complex for any one single stakeholder or sector to tackle alone. Two years in — and now in year three of the COVID crisis with over 250 partners around the world — that assumption is even more true.

Over the past two years, we have intentionally built Pandemic Action Network to be a diverse and agile group of partners — a global advocacy platform — where we can drive consensus for action without being hampered by the need to be consensus-driven. Today, we’re at an inflection point in the fight to end the COVID crisis and ensure a pandemic-proof future.

Our Year Two Impact Report focuses on the power of the Network Effect — our unique ability to harness the capacity, expertise, and influence of our diverse and growing group of partners across sectors and geographies to accelerate an end to the COVID crisis for everyone and advance meaningful change to pandemic proof our future. 

In practice, the Network Effect is fueled by a platform that is built for sharing timely information and intelligence, active brainstorming and strategizing, convening of experts and key stakeholders, openly connecting across traditional silos and boundaries, i.e., organizations, markets, sectors, and geographies, and targeted communications and policy and advocacy resources. The result is that Network members are better supported, aligned, and (often most importantly) not alone in taking action. Among the most significant roles for the Network is ensuring that pandemic preparedness does not disappear from agendas as policy makers — but also global health advocates and change makers — as many move on to other priorities in the wake of the crisis phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this context, our collective efforts are more important than ever. 

Our Year Two Report details lessons learned, our progress and impact, priorities for action, and how we plan to evolve to tackle the challenges ahead. It is a reminder that the agenda ahead is ambitious to match the complexity of pandemics. Our Network Effect must grow in order to meet the challenges ahead. Together, we must be relentless and stay in the fight until we have translated the promises and commitments of this crisis into a future in which humanity is better prepared to deal with outbreaks and prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Read The Network Effect on Pandemic Preparedness & Response — Our Year Two Impact Report.

To all our partners, thank you for staying in the fight! If you are not a partner of Pandemic Action Network and you are interested in joining our collective effort, please contact us

State of Play Report: Pandemic Preparedness and Response in Africa

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its third year, African countries are grappling with the fallout from this multi-year crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated geopolitical, national, and social divides, setting back years of progress on health and gender equity, education, poverty reduction, and social progress. Health and social systems are strained, making us less prepared to respond to pandemics and other health crises.

Even as we look ahead, the COVID-19 crisis still looms. The pandemic underlines the urgent requirement across the continent for a New Public Health Order, championed by Africa CDC, and the need to build on lessons learned from previous epidemics.

The State of Play report from Future Africa Forum, documents lessons learned from recent epidemics, highlights challenges, and provides actionable and practical pandemic preparedness and response policy recommendations in an African context.

Read the full report.

Read the related policy brief.

 

An African Agenda for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — Policy Brief

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists into its third year, African countries are grappling with the fallout from this multi-year crisis. Widespread loss of life, enduring disability, and broader economic and social fallout of the COVID-19 crisis has made pandemic preparedness an urgent imperative. With momentum around the call for a New Public Health Order for Africa, there is a window of opportunity for substantial policy reform at national, regional, and global levels. This is a window that must not be wasted.

Developed by Future Africa ForumAn African Agenda for Pandemic Preparedness and Response — presents practical and actionable recommendations aimed at enhancing pandemic preparedness and response capabilities and capacities for African policymakers at both regional and national levels. The policy brief is anchored by the State of Play report, a systematic review of African regional policy documents and initiatives relating to pandemic preparedness and response and engagement of civil society stakeholders.

Read the full policy brief here

Activating Young Leaders to End the COVID Crisis and Pandemic Proof Our Future

COVID-19 has profoundly uprooted global norms. While the pandemic affects people across the globe, the impacts are different based on where you live and who you are. For the under-30s of the world, we will be hit hardest by long-term economic, social, and emotional stressors, and we will bear the brunt of the fallout if leaders fail to act on pandemic preparedness. With crises like global conflict, climate change, and potentially another deadly pandemic on the horizon, youth voices must be prioritized in change-making. 

Global leaders should engage and support youth in response to the current crises while advocating for future pandemic preparedness. Around the globe, 40% of 18 to 29 year-olds feel left out of designing or reforming public benefits and services. It is time to make space for new thought leadership, equip youth with the tools to address and mitigate pandemics, and invite them to the decision making tables. The onus is on youth to rebuild a more resilient global paradigm. Here’s how global leaders can support us:

  1. Tailor youth programming
    Use an intergenerational lens with youth-led and -designed programming to engage younger generations in responding to COVID-19 and working to prevent future pandemics. People under 30 account for half of the world’s population, so it’s important to engage with youth perspectives in pandemic programming. Review your organization’s pandemic preparedness and response initiatives to identify where you can incorporate youth voices and leadership to deliver on your goals more effectively.
  2. Step up and share the decision making power
    Two out of three countries do not consult young people as part of national development plans. This is an appeal to established leaders to give precedent for youth counsel. Advocating for the world to take pandemics seriously means providing youth-centered policy development and decision-making opportunities to support transparency, cooperation, and international disease monitoring and response structures. While established leaders must make space for younger leaders, this is also a call for youth to step up to the plate, advocate for pandemic preparedness across platforms, and hold international leaders accountable to their policy commitments. We need your voices to demand that future generations be spared from the impact of pandemic threats!
  3. Capitalize on youth social media savvy for pandemic response and preparedness
    We know that Gen Z is the first fully-global generation connected by digital devices and engaged in social media. But young people are more than just connected: they are savvy and have the potential to use their platforms to advance social good. Think about the K-POP fans who have organized around political activism. Now is the time to use the power and creativity of youth networks and partnerships to creatively break through, combat misinformation, and engage a broader audience on pandemic preparedness and response.
  4. Take action and amplify these youth engagement tools: 
    • Focus your energy on becoming a mentor with Global Health Me to connect with young global health professionals and students for a five-month mentoring opportunity.  

Every revolution in history has been led by young people. –Aya Chebbi

President von der Leyen’s Opportunity to Change the Course of the Pandemic: Turning Vaccines Doses Into Urgent Funding to Fight COVID-19

This Friday, April 8, we have our eyes set on the 2022 Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) Summit — hosted by Germany and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — and, in particular, on the role that the European Union (EU) plays in making it a success. The Summit aims to raise at least US$5.2 billion in urgent funds for COVAX — a key component of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) that helps deliver vaccines to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) around the globe. 

While the EU and other countries have already supported ACT-A’s life-saving work, there is still a substantial funding gap to cross the finishing line. Most of the resources pledged this Friday for COVAX will be used to ramp up vaccination in lower-income countries and cover in-country delivery and ancillary costs — such as storage, syringes, and transportation — that are currently hindering vaccination targets and risking the world’s progress against COVID-19.  

Among the different participants in this Friday’s Summit, the EU has a considerable margin to maneuver to make a significant contribution. In July 2021, the European Commission (EC) announced the EU’s commitment to donate 200 million vaccine doses to LMICs, setting aside €1.3 billion for this purpose. However, despite the welcomed act of solidarity, the EC hasn’t completed the purchase yet, creating a unique opportunity to use this money more wisely. 

Taking into account that the supply of vaccines is no longer the most pressing issue, but rather in-country logistics and distribution bottlenecks, the Commission should redirect those resources to meet COVAX’s target as well as ACT-A’s overall funding gap, currently estimated at €25 billion. The change in priority from vaccines to vaccination has been echoed by health authorities across LMICs. Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. John Nkengasong recently stated that the challenge is on delivery and even warned that “too many doses without the infrastructure or coordination to distribute them could lead to vaccines expiring”. 

The EU’s decision to turn the committed doses into a financial contribution — presently at the desk of the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen — could become a game-changer in the race to vaccinate the world. It would help drive vaccination rates up and still leave plenty of money to boost the diagnostics and therapeutics pillars of the ACT-A. Or in much simpler terms, such a reallocation of funds would ensure greater impact, while demonstrating that leaders are in tune with the changing realities on the ground.

Call to Action! Accelerating an Effective and Equitable COVID-19 Response and Pandemic-proofing the Future

We are at a pivotal moment in the COVID-19 pandemic. With only 14% of people in low-income countries vaccinated with at least one dose, progress against the disease is at risk. Equitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments remains elusive, compromising the health of millions of people, increasing the chances of more deadly variants, and endangering recovery. Now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has brought a new security challenge, further threatening global health and safety. The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and looming food and energy emergencies will continue to strain economies, people, and systems — not only in Europe, but also in other regions where progress against COVID-19 is still fragile.  

The convergence of different security crises with a still-present COVID-19 emergency will only deepen global suffering unless world leaders act urgently. It is essential that G7, G20, and all leaders not retreat from COVID-19 and acknowledge that ending this pandemic remains critical to the world’s security and stability. It is the time to double down and finish this solvable crisis — before the world is faced with a more transmissible or deadly variant, or even a novel pathogen. 

Together with over 30 partners, Pandemic Action Network calls on leaders to revamp their response to the pandemic in upcoming Summits and global coordination meetings taking place in 2022 and stay the course and secure the future, by prioritizing the following actions:

  1. Accelerate equitable access to and acceptance of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics
  2. Provide new, diversified funding to fill country-identified gaps in response and preparedness
  3. Build now to pandemic proof the future

Read the full call to action here

This call to action is open for sign-ons. Please email Hanna if you’d like to add your organization.

Steps Taken, a Leap Required — CEPI’s Replenishment Statement

Today, as the world reaches a grim milestone of six million official deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic and as Russia wages war in Ukraine, world leaders gathered at the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit to address what we must do better to prevent and prepare for pandemic threats. The Summit, organized by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the U.K. Government, represented a critical opportunity for global leaders to prioritize pandemic preparedness and support CEPI’s groundbreaking 5-year plan to develop life-saving vaccines to help prevent a crisis of similar scale to the COVID-19 pandemic, including its 100 Days Mission to develop safe and effective vaccines in 100 days following an outbreak. 

Pledges of financial and political support were made in nearly equal measure with a total of 13 countries and 2 philanthropic donors pledging US$1.54 billion to CEPI’s US$3.5 billion five-year plan. Japan’s announcement of US$300 million made it the largest contributor, followed by the U.K. in addition to commitments from Australia, Austria, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, and the U.S. 

At least nine other countries (Brazil, Canada, Greece, Kuwait, Lithuania, Nigeria, South Korea, Spain, and Switzerland) and the European Commission expressed their support, though no specific financial contribution was mentioned. 

While this is a welcome and important first step toward a world that is better prepared for pandemic threats, it is disappointing that many governments failed to match political support with bold and meaningful financial commitments. The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that the world is ill-prepared to prevent and respond to a pandemic caused by a novel respiratory pathogen. The pandemic research and development (R&D) system as it exists does not work to address the challenges of emerging infectious diseases. As we look toward year three of COVID, we are already witnessing the familiar and costly cycle of panic and neglect around pandemics spinning into motion. CEPI’s plan to reduce vaccine development time to 100 days is one in a set of critical measures to get ahead of the cycle of panic and neglect and avoid another trillion-dollar pandemic that needlessly costs millions of lives and livelihoods. 

Eloise Todd, Pandemic Action Network’s co-founder, said:

“While today’s commitments of over US$1.5 billion to CEPI are a welcome and strong start, they are not enough. The COVID crisis showed us that the vaccine R&D system as it exists cannot meet the challenges of emerging infectious diseases before they cause severe damage, nor can it ensure all people everywhere have equitable access to the tools and technologies they need to curb a global health emergency. Leaders can avoid repeating past mistakes and build a system that is forward looking and equitable. Fully funding CEPI is an impactful way to do just that. An investment in CEPI is a fraction of the trillions lost to pandemic response and an investment that pays a multitude of dividends. We expect key global leaders to step up in the coming weeks to align their financial commitments with their political commitments, and make a fully-funded CEPI a reality.”

Pandemic Action Network and its network of over 250 partners will follow up closely on the actions of governments, philanthropies, and decision makers who have expressed their commitment to this goal, especially those key global leaders who can convene other governments, rally support, and mobilize resources. Building on the strong momentum from the Global Pandemic Preparedness Summit, concerted action from world leaders in the coming months will be crucial to fully fund CEPI and ensuring the COVID crisis leaves a legacy of pandemic preparedness.

Promising Outcomes and a Test of Commitment: EU-AU Summit Statement

The 6th European Union (EU) – African Union (AU) Summit has come to an end. This was an opportunity for Europe to thaw tensions with Africa in the response to COVID-19 and deepen cooperation amongst the member states “based on shared interests and values.” Coming into the Summit, the hoarding of vaccines by EU countries, the imposition of export restrictions for COVID tools, the discriminatory travel bans against Southern African countries, and the EU’s opposition to a temporary intellectual property (IP) waiver for COVID-19 tools have brought mistrust and a difficult backdrop. The two blocks historically have a difficult past. 

Despite the difficulties, it is a mark of maturity that despite the rough edges in their relationship, the AU and EU member states continue to work toward a better partnership.  

The social, economic, and political impacts of COVID-19 are unprecedented in scale and have exposed the weaknesses in the global health system. Ahead of the EU-AU Summit, Pandemic Action Network, together with nearly 40 African, European, and other civil society organizations, called on EU and AU member states to take six bold actions.  

We welcome the announcement in the summit declaration of the various commitments aimed at supporting AU member states to respond to COVID-19 and build capacity for future health threats. The majority of these initiatives were re-packaged from previous pledges or commitments, most notably:  

  • Team Europe’s affirmation of the commitment to provide at least 450 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa in coordination with Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT).
  • The commitment by Team Europe to mobilize EUR 425 million to accelerate vaccination.  
  • Team Europe’s commitment to support the building of manufacturing hubs in Africa with an investment of EUR 1 billion from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank.

The outcome document also flagged the support provided to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) so far by Team Europe, amounting to over US$3 billion.

 

While we welcome these EU-AU Summit commitments, the scale of what’s required to end the COVID crisis for everyone demands that world leaders do much more and do so urgently. 

 

The ACT-Accelerator — the global platform for collaboration on COVID-19 response — launched its financing framework this month, outlining clear and urgent grant financing asks and expectations of fair share voluntary contributions. While the needs are clear, the EU was not direct on plans to meet its fair share needed for the global COVID-19 response. The EU needs  to act urgently to ensure the speedy delivery of vaccinations to save lives, protect livelihoods, and prevent emergence of new variants.

One of the important lessons of COVID-19 to African countries is that the continent cannot rely on the goodwill and charity of rich countries — including Europe — for its own health security. In the quest to address inequitable access to vaccines, tests, and treatments and to better prepare for future pandemics, AU member states have initiated various efforts including local manufacturing of biomedical products — especially vaccines —  and the establishment of manufacturing and technology transfer partnerships and have called for a temporary waiver of IP rights.

While EU member states and companies have signed agreements and developed partnerships in support of the manufacturing agenda with different African countries — Rwanda, Senegal, and South Africa among others — and have committed to strengthen Africa’s continental health security through Africa CDC and to support Africa’s regulatory framework, the EU has once again, in a cautiously worded statement, hesitated to expressly heed the call by AU member states to support a temporary waiver of IP rights at the World Trade Organization. The financial support for manufacturing of health technologies is laudable, but the failure to support temporary waiver of IP to enable rapid production and distribution of the life-saving tools is inimical to the manufacturing objectives in the midst of this pandemic.

As civil society groups from across Africa, we expected more action to tackle inequitable access to vaccines and other COVID-19 tools. The EU, for example, has chosen to buy 200 million mRNA doses to then donate to Africa instead of directly financing COVAX to buy against its own strategy. There was some good news on research and development investment and manufacturing, but Africa and Europe did not agree on backing a TRIPS waiver though mRNA hubs will be established. The outcomes and partnership provide good potential for health systems strengthening, but the multilateral partnership between the blocs will succeed or fail based on the commitment both sides show to working together and living up to the Summit Joint Vision — and how quickly Europe can put words and pledges into action.

CEPI’s Unique Impact Opportunity: Pandemic Preparedness & Response R&D

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was founded with the mission to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases (EID) and enable equitable access for all during outbreaks. Less than three years after its start, CEPI’s quick response during the COVID-19 pandemic propelled the development and manufacturing of new vaccines and it was the only entity with the mandate to invest in de-risking COVID-19 vaccine research and development (R&D) with global access in mind. CEPI’s role fills some of the critical gaps that governments do not address and on March 7-8, the U.K. Government will host the CEPI replenishment at the Pandemic Preparedness Summit. The replenishment aims to raise US$3.5 billion for the delivery of CEPI’s critical 2022-2026 strategy to accelerate the development of vaccines and other health tools against epidemic and pandemic threats.

Produced by Pandemic Action Network and DSW, CEPI’s Unique Impact Opportunity: Pandemic Preparedness & Response R&D examines the characteristics and ways in which CEPI is distinctly positioned to bolster global and regional health security initiatives, especially through vaccine R&D against EIDs, to ensure the world is equipped to end the COVID crisis for everyone and is better prepared for the next pandemic.

Key messages of the brief explainer include:

  • CEPI is uniquely positioned to address global pandemic threats through vaccine R&D for emerging infectious diseases.
  • Because of its commitment to equitable access for the global good, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, CEPI’s work leads to increased access and distribution of much-needed vaccines to traditionally underserved populations.
  • Building on its role, investments, and relationships, CEPI delivers catalytic impact globally in pandemic preparedness and response.
  • CEPI fills critical gaps in the vaccine R&D ecosystem that would otherwise go unfilled.
  • Emerging infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, do not recognize international borders. CEPI’s global mandate naturally complements regional and national R&D institutions that work to counter pandemic threats.

Read the full brief.

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