That was the message delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the second Virtual White House COVID-19 Summit co-hosted by the United States, Germany, Belize, Senegal and Indonesia – countries that currently hold the chairmanship of various regional and geo-political blocs including the African Union and G20.
President Ramaphosa’s address to the summit:
The US President opened the summit just as his country reached the tragic milestone of one million deaths associated with the pandemic while pledging to share critical COVID-19 health technologies through the World Health Organisation.
US President Biden opens the COVID-19 Summit:
It’s the second COVID-19 Summit hosted by the White House as a follow up to last September’s inaugural event – in an effort to keep momentum in getting the pandemic under control.
US President Joe Biden says, “Today we’re at a new stage of fighting this pandemic, facing an evolving set of challenges. We’ve got to double down on our efforts to get shots into people’s arms.”
The White House says the Summit will redouble efforts on:
*Recommitting Intensity to the Globe Pandemic Response including securing new resources
*Vaccinating the World as the most important lifesaving tool
*Protecting the most vulnerable with a focus on getting vaccines, tests and treatments to those at highest risk including frontline workers and,
*Preventing future catastrophes by investing now to secure political commitments for pandemic preparedness globally.
“Today I’m announcing that the United States will share critical COVID-19 technologies through the World Health Organsation COVID-19 Technology Access pool. We’re making available health technologies that are owned by the United States government including stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines. We’re standing up a new pilot programme, working with the Global Fund, to expand access to rapid testing and anti-viral treatments for people in harder to reach areas and we’re increasing our support for new pandemic preparedness and global health security fund that will be established at the World Bank this summer with 450 million dollars in seed funding,” adds Biden.
Africa’s vaccine self-sufficiency
President Ramaphosa – also in South Africa’s capacity as AU COVID-19 Champion – called for continued vigilance but warned that Africa’s progress towards vaccine self-sufficiency including investments in vaccine manufacturing hubs could be threatened.
“This progress may be reversed because international agencies that have been that have had a lot of money donated to for purchasing and procuring vaccines for developing economy countries are not buying vaccines from African vaccine manufacturers, even for those vaccines that are destined for African countries. This immediately just devalues the whole process of local manufacturing and local production of vaccines. This, ladies and gentlemen, must change. Multilateral agencies and also philanthropic organisations need to be procuring vaccines and boosters from African vaccine manufacturers, to ensure that developing capabilities on the continent are retained.”
He called for vaccines for Africans to be purchases on African soil – a sentiment echoed by the AU Chair and Senegalese President Macky Sall.
“Africa wants locally produced vaccines to access marketing and distribution platforms such as GAVI. This is what will make local vaccine production sustainable. We held a meeting on this subject on May 10, two days ago, in order to advocate the purchase of vaccines produced on the continent. We are advocating the establishment of a more inclusive new world order for public health, more inclusive, for better handling of cross-border health issues.”
The WHO told the summit that COVID-19 cases were increasing in 70 countries while testing was decreasing making the world blind to the pandemic’s evolution while a funding shortfall of 15 billion US dollars currently faced by the ACT Accelerator – the world’s most comprehensive end-to-end solution to end the acute phase of the pandemic.
The White House has also asked Congress for 22.5 billion in new funding to fight the pandemic – including 5 billion dollars for the global response.