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Scientists, leaders unveil plan to accelerate new COVID-19 health technologies

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Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT |  World leaders, scientists, humanitarians and private sector partners have united in a landmark collaboration that will make new tools and medicines to diagnose and treat COVID-19, accessible to people everywhere.  

The virtual launch of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator has seen participation from all corners of the planet to boost commitment and support for the production of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to save lives from an unprecedented enemy. Heads of State in attendance included the Presidents of France, South Africa, Costa Rica, Spain and Rwanda.  

Since the beginning of the year, the World Health Organization has been working with thousands of researchers across the globe to accelerate and track the development of a vaccine against the disease, which has spread in all corners of the world and affected all aspects of life, the global economy, education, employment and travel.  

WHO has also developed diagnostics which are being used by several countries, and is currently coordinating a solidarity clinical trial of four therapeutics to treat the virus.  

“The world needs these tools, and it needs them fast,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, one of the event’s co-hosts. Tedros described the ACT Accelerator as a landmark collaboration as it brings together the combined power of several organizations.       

Melinda Gates, the Co-chair from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation added that the pandemic is a reminder that we are all part of the same global community. She added that as new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines become available, everyone has a responsibility to get them out equitably with the understanding that all lives have equal value.     

The global vaccine alliance, GAVI is among key partners working to speed up the development of COVID-19 tools.  “We need to devise and deliver a vaccine programme to get billions of doses out at a speed and scale never before contemplated, let alone achieved; the most rapid vaccine deployment in history”, said Seth Berkley, the alliance’s Chief Executive Officer.

During the meeting, Health leaders called on the global community and political leaders to support this landmark collaboration and for donors to provide the necessary resources to accelerate achievement of its objectives, capitalizing on the opportunity provided by a forthcoming pledging initiative spearheaded by the European Union.

According to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU Commission, the Global Pledging Effort and replenishing campaign which starts on 4 May 2020, aims to raise 7.5 billion Euros to support the ramping up of COVID-19 diagnostics and treatments.  

The other partners in the landmark collaboration include the Health leaders from the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Global Fund, UNITAID, the Wellcome Trust, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC), the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers (IFPMA), the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers’ Network (DCVMN), and the International Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association (IGBA).  

Joined by two Special Envoys: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair and Sir Andrew Witty, former CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, the launch of the groundbreaking collaboration was guided by a common vision of a planet protected from human suffering and the devastating social and economic consequences of COVID-19. The biopharmaceutical industry also stands ready to bring its unique knowledge to the partnership, as well as its expertise and experience – including in building manufacturing and distribution networks.

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