Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the former Finance Minister for Nigeria and is the Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation which was founded by Bill and Melinda Gates and is now referred to as the Vaccine Alliance or GAVI. Sir Andrew Witty was the British head of the global drugs company GSK until 2017 and until earlier this month he was CEO of Optum, a role he has now taken a leave of absence from in order to help develop a vaccination for COVID-19. According to this article in the Guardian newspaper, a virtual meeting took place yesterday in response to the World Health Organisation and involving the leaders or key people from most of the 20 nations that participated. These two people have now been appointed to act as the meetings envoys to lead global cooperation on vaccine research and to help ensure equal access to the successful vaccines to all nations. This will include all of the poorer nations and also the USA who observed but did not participate in the meeting and which has withdrawn its funding from the WHO. However Bill Gates did participate. The meeting will be reconvened on 4th May by the UK to discuss raising funds for vaccine research, treatments and tests. Our nation has been one of the biggest funders of this process to date, supplying £250m for international research on the disease through the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
The WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “We are facing a common threat that we can only defeat with a common approach. Experience has told us that even when tools are available they have not been equally available to all. We cannot allow that to happen.” As part of the call these five pledges were agreed:
- Provide access to new treatments, technologies and vaccines across the world.
- Commit to an unprecedented level of international partnership on research and coordinate efforts to tackle the pandemic and reduce infections.
- Reach collective decisions on responding to the pandemic, recognising that the virus’s spread in one country can affect all countries.
- Learn from experience and adapt the global response.
- Be accountable, to the most vulnerable communities and the whole world.
It is very easy to find comments by people who along with Donald Trump have made all sorts of criticisms of the WHO. Many of which are themselves deeply full of ignorance. However our future prospects as a nation and as part of the world will require a thorough and holistic approach and as I wrote a few days ago it is vital that all of our political leaders do support this sort of issue, even if that means them failing to support Trump who as we know from the last few days is not the most reliable person when it comes to COVID-19.