Opening remarks by the Director-General at the press conference on COVID-19 – May 28, 2021 – Worldwide

  • With more than 3.5 million deaths recorded from COVID-19, an estimated loss to the global economy of US $ 22 trillion, and new variants exacerbating explosive epidemics, this pandemic is far from over. At the World Health Assembly this week, there was broad consensus that ensuring equitable access to vaccines is essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • In my opening remarks on Monday, I called on world leaders to support massive action to immunize at least 10% of each country’s population by September and 30% by the end of the year. If countries immediately share doses with COVAX, and if manufacturers prioritize COVAX, we can achieve this and save many lives.

  • Ultimately, the fastest way to end this pandemic is to dramatically increase the global manufacturing of vaccines, tests, treatments and other medical supplies, and ensure equitable access. A year ago, the President of Costa Rica, His Excellency Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and more than 40 heads of state joined the WHO to form C-TAP, the COVID-19 technology access pool .

  • C-TAP builds on the experience of the Medicines Patent Pool and provides a unique platform where innovators of COVID-19 health products can voluntarily share their knowledge and technologies with quality-assured manufacturers. Once fully functional, C-TAP assisting in manufacturing expansion could increase supply for countries and COVAX.

Hello, good afternoon and good evening.

As you know, this week is the World Health Assembly – the annual meeting of nations to discuss common health challenges and agree on a common way forward.

The range of issues discussed is immense: from diabetes to malaria, disabilities, oral health and more.

And of course, COVID-19 has been the subject of much discussion.

There has been broad consensus this week that equitable access to vaccines is essential to ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

With more than 3.5 million deaths recorded from COVID-19, an estimated loss to the global economy of US $ 22 trillion, and new variants exacerbating explosive epidemics, this pandemic is far from over.

In my opening remarks on Monday, I called on world leaders to support massive action to immunize at least 10% of each country’s population by September and 30% by the end of the year.

Our “sprint to September” goal means we need to immunize at least 250 million more people in low- and middle-income countries, including all health workers and most-at-risk groups as a top priority.

If countries immediately share doses with COVAX, and if manufacturers prioritize COVAX, we can achieve that goal and save many lives.

Ultimately, the fastest way to end this pandemic is to dramatically increase the global manufacturing of vaccines, tests, treatments and other medical supplies, and ensure equitable access.

A year ago, the President of Costa Rica, His Excellency Carlos Alvarado Quesada, and more than 40 Heads of State joined WHO to form C-TAP, the COVID-19 technology access pool.

C-TAP builds on the experience of the Medicines Patent Pool and provides a unique platform where innovators of COVID-19 health products can voluntarily share their knowledge and technologies with quality-assured manufacturers.

C-TAP is based on a proven method.

The voluntary, non-exclusive licenses issued through the Medicines Patent Pool have saved lives by ramping up the manufacture of treatments for HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases.

We welcome the interest expressed by several diagnostic manufacturers who are already in advanced discussions with C-TAP to share their technology.

And also research institutes willing to share their knowledge via C-TAP.

But we need more developers to come forward and share vital tools so that we can speed up production and expand access.

Original companies that bring their knowledge to C-TAP can quickly access the production capacity they need to manufacture enough for everyone, while collecting the appropriate royalties.

Contributions to C-TAP are voluntary, transparent and non-exclusive, enabling several qualified producers around the world to manufacture COVID-19 health products.

Once the agreements are signed, C-TAP will support companies in managing the signed agreements for effective implementation and provide technical assistance to countries when needed.

Once fully functional, C-TAP assisting in manufacturing expansion could increase supply for countries and COVAX.

Today, I am honored to be accompanied by the thought leader behind C-TAP, His Excellency Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica.

The President and I issued an open letter yesterday calling on all countries to support C-TAP.

Governments can play a leading role in creating incentives for industry to support our efforts.

Excellency, thank you for your leadership and your welcome.

It’s your turn to speak.

[PRESIDENT ALVARADO ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you for these comments, I totally agree that at this time of urgent need, we must use all solutions to increase the manufacturing capacity.

Then, I have the great pleasure of welcoming the Honorable Arancha González Laya, Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs of the European Union and for Cooperation.

Minister González Laya, you have the floor.

[MINISTER GONZALEZ LAYA ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you, Minister González Laya.

By joining C-TAP this month, Spain made a very important statement to the world about the need to improve equity in vaccines.

I turn now to your compatriot, Professor Jesús Marco, Vice-President of the Spanish National Research Council.

Professor Marco, you have the floor.

[PROFESSOR MARCO ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you professor. You are right that publicly funded research plays a key role in the development of health technologies and in the midst of a pandemic, now is the time to share them equitably.

Then we are joined by the Honorable Meryame Kitir, Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation.

Minister Kitir, the floor is yours.

[MINISTER KITIR ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you for these kind words, Minister Kitir. Belgium has a key role to play in ensuring that everything goes in the EU and around the world for a fair production and deployment of tests, treatments and vaccines.

Next, it is my pleasure to introduce to you the Honorable Budi Gunadi Sadikin, Minister of Health of Indonesia.

Minister Gunadi Sadikin, you have the floor.

[MINISTER GUNADI SADIKIN ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you Minister, we are not often joined by nuclear physicists.

You are correct that in South East Asia there are some countries under enormous pressure and we appreciate your willingness to help increase the production of health products.

Our next speaker is Abdul Muktadir, President and CEO of Incepta Pharmaceuticals, Bangladesh.

Mr. Muktadir, the floor is yours.

[MR MUKTADIR ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you, Mr. Muktadir. It is of concern that the vaccine manufacturing capacity in Bangladesh is not being used.

This is the time when all capacity must be fully utilized and I hope that technology and know-how will soon be pooled so that Incepta can start producing vital doses.

Now, last but not least, I am happy to welcome Alejandra Sanchez Cabezas, Argentina’s Health Observatory.

[MR SANCHEZ CABEZAS ADDRESSES THE MEDIA]

Thank you Alejandra, I understand that Argentina is going through a serious wave of COVID-19 right now and I agree with you that now is the time to go all out and do all we can.

Thanks again to all the speakers.

As you have seen today, C-TAP is supported by a significant number of national leaders, researchers and companies around the world.

Civil society organizations have also strongly supported C-TAP, and I thank them for that.

We hold the door open to pharmaceutical companies that have become household names, even though too few households have benefited from the vital tools they have developed.

They control the intellectual property that can save lives today, end this pandemic quickly, and prevent future epidemics from spiraling out of control and undermining health, economies and national security.

The main gap is with the original companies, but I believe that with the right political will and the right incentives, we can see an increase in collaboration and pooling that would help end this pandemic.

Thank you, Christian back to you.


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