WHO calls for universal access to COVID-19 vaccine



World Health Organisation (WHO) member states have signed a resolution that calls for COVID-19 vaccines to be classified as a global public good for health in order to bring the pandemic to an end.

This follows China’s commitment made by President Xi Jinping during the two-day World Health Assembly to make the vaccine a global public good, once one is available.

“The landmark resolution underlines WHO’s key role in promoting access to safe, effective health technologies to fight the pandemic,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus.

In addition to a vaccine, the resolution highlights three other critical points. It calls for countries to ensure the fair distribution of all quality essential health technologies required to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, that relevant international treaties should be harnessed where needed, including the provisions of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.

The third point encourages collaboration to promote both private sector and government-funded research and development. This includes open innovation across all relevant domains and the sharing of all relevant information with WHO.

The historic consensus resolution on COVID-19 and the way ahead comes as 106 000 cases were reported.

“In the last 24 hours, there have been 106 000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries,” said Ghebreyesus on Wednesday.

But, in good news,  it has been particularly impressive to see how countries like the Republic of Korea have built on their experience of the Middle East Respiratory (MERS) outbreak to quickly implement a comprehensive strategy to find, isolate, test and care for every case, and trace every contact.

This was critical to the Republic of Korea curtailing the first wave and now quickly identifying and containing new outbreaks.          

At the assembly, WHO expressed concern about the rising numbers of cases in low- and middle-income countries.

Governments in the assembly outlined their primary goal of suppressing transmission, saving lives and restoring livelihoods.

As the world continues to battle COVID-19, Ghebreyesus called on governments to ensure that health systems continue to function to avoid the risk brought on by the suspension of essential services, like child immunisation.