By Michael Davenport
The COVID-19 crisis has left no one untouched. It is having an impact both on our health and wellbeing and on our economies. A pandemic such as this requires a global response, clear leadership and a united approach. All of us want to see the development and production of medicines and vaccines to combat the virus in a sustainable way. Above all we want to ensure both that new health technologies to deal with COVID-19 are globally accessible and that no-one is left behind.
A key moment in the global effort to ensure equitable global distribution of vaccines was the creation 10 years ago of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI, or the Vaccine Alliance). Since then GAVI has vaccinated over 760 million children, saving 13 million lives and protecting a whole generation against some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
GAVI provides immunisation support to 68 of the world’s poorest countries. Its new strategy puts equity at its heart, with a commitment to vaccinate 300 million children by 2025. Sustaining immunisation coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic is crucial to avoid secondary outbreaks and further unbearable strain on health systems.
We urgently need a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine, and work on this is continuing apace in many countries. The United Kingdom is the largest single donor of funds to the international Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) in its efforts to accelerate vaccine development. It is estimated that $2bn will be needed for this over the next 12 months. A further $8bn will be needed for manufacture and global distribution through GAVI.
The UK is therefore pleased to be joining the European Union and others to co-host a virtual pledging event – the Coronavirus Global Response Summit – on May 4, 2020. This event will launch a campaign to mobilise the necessary resources to accelerate work to protect the world from COVID-19.
We now need an unprecedented and inclusive partnership with all stakeholders – political leaders, public and private sector partners, civil society, academia, and all other stakeholders across society – jointly leveraging our comparative strengths and respective voices to drive towards collective solutions, an accelerated path, and access for all. We are stronger, faster and more effective working together. And we need the support of global leaders.
I have been impressed by Kuwait’s speedy and firm response to COVID-19. The UK Minister of State, James Cleverly, recently called the Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khalid Al-Jarallah to discuss the challenges of COVID-19. He praised Kuwait’s generous support to the World Health Organisation in the battle against the virus. Some of that funding is earmarked for countries struggling to combat COVID-19. Kuwait is already part of our shared mission to ensure that no-one is left behind.
We do not know how long the COVID-19 crisis will continue, nor if the virus will return. We do know, however, that we must learn from one another and work together if we are to defeat this virus, roll out an effective vaccine worldwide and rebuild our economies to be both sustainable and resilient.