By Austin Maho P.hD
It is apparent that COVID-19 it is a global problem that deserves a coordinated response at a global level to effectively contain.
This is why the consistent call for action by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is imperative and instructive. The primary instrument put in place by the WHO towards achieving a speedy globally acceptable vaccine for Covid-19 is the Global ACT Accelerator Initiative.
The initiative is designed to accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine by all nations and citizens of the world irrespective of race, colour or creed.
The ACT Accelerator is a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccine. However noble this initiative sounds there are however challenges.
According to the DG of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the initiative is currently plagued by a $35 billion funding gap.
COVAX is the vaccines pillar of the ACT Accelerator. It is co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO, because it aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines, and to guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world.
Evidently, it is a clever initiative that allows countries and scientists around the world to work together for a common goal rather than working at cross purposes that may be expensive and time-consuming. It allows the pulling together of resources and scientists across the world to receive funding for their research.
For the initiative to work, countries around the world have to pull resources together. However, only about 10 per cent of the funding needed has been received so far according to Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the WHO. Speaking earlier in September during a meeting of the facilitation council of the ACT he expressed worries that,
“The ACT Accelerator will not be able to deliver on its goals without a significant increase in funding; it still faces a funding gap of 35 billion US dollars,” Tedros noted.
Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator simply known as ACT Accelerator or ACT-A was launched on April 24, 2020, and provided with political and financial support through a global pledging event of May 4, and June 27.
It has already established a dynamic portfolio of vaccine candidates, launched a global facility to optimize vaccine development and use.
Furthermore, the ACT initiative ensures that African countries are not left out when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines development and distribution. African countries have always been left behind on issues of global health and development.
As an initiative of the WHO it is expected that all countries of the world support and fund the ACT-Accelerator. Africans especially must not just be seen as Guinea pigs for Vaccine testing but must take part in their development and deployment.
Left on their own, African nations would not be able to compete with Western nations in terms of research, manufacturing, distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine, that is why the ACT initiative is of particular importance to African countries.
This is not the time to put the profit motive at the forefront or to embark on a race whose primary motive is profit. It is shared humanity, the world must act to save humanity, this should be the driving force and principal objective.
The novel coronavirus presents an opportunity for global solidarity and the ideals of shared humanity. The virus doesn’t discriminate whether you are African or American, it doesn’t care if you are Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic or Black it doesn’t matter to the virus if you are rich or poor, and it can strike irrespective of who you are or where you are. It is expected that the world comes together, put all differences aside to fight what obviously is a common enemy through the ACT-Accelerator initiative.
This is not the time for experimenting with human lives, countries across the world must show solidarity with one another through information sharing, and humbly seeking advice and guidance where necessary.
There is no doubt that what is needed at this particular point in time is global cooperation and solidary. Hence the pain and anguish many feel when some politicians play politics with human lives.
On July 8, United States President Donald Trump unilateral pulled the United States out of the global health body, WHO after he had earlier pulled funding from the organization in April on grounds that the WHO withheld information about the virus.
Dr Tedros Adhanom at a press conference on July 9 described Trump’s action as a tragedy.
“This is a tragedy that is forcing us to miss many of our friends, losing many lives. And we cannot defeat this pandemic as a divided world. The Covid-19 pandemic is a test of global solidarity and global leadership”. He had said.
The US is the global health agency’s largest single contributor, withdrawal of funding means the WHO would lose as much as 15% of its total budget. It has been estimated that as of March 2020, the U.S. owed the WHO about $198 million in assessed fees.
There is no doubt that the de-funding will impact the fight against the coronavirus and could worsen the pandemic, especially in developing countries that relies on the WHO funding. Moreover, with the U.S missing in the global effort to develop a vaccine through the ACT Accelerator project, it has abandoned its traditional global leadership position when it mattered most.
It is unfortunate that the current US president is prevaricating, and playing the blame game. Trump believes America is an island unto itself and as such can survive in isolation. He preaches the greatness of America without considering that America’s greatness is tied to the rest of the global community.
As at the middle of October, the total number of deaths from Covid-19 in the United States has already crossed 220,000 and counting. Yet Mr Trump continues to behave like a bull in a China shop, lashing at everyone, isolating his traditional allies and going it all alone.
The World had thought that having contracted the virus himself he would learn that the virus is real and a respecter of nobody. Sadly this has not been the case. He continues to downplay the severity of COVID-19, exposing innocent lives to danger and death. It is ironic that while he had access to the best treatment money can buy other Americans do not have the same privilege.
In recent days the spread of the virus has spiked in America and a second wave is expected as the country enters the flu season, but Trump is more concerned with his re-election bid.
America’s failure at containing Covid-19 has been a shock to many. The country currently accounts for almost a quarter of worldwide reported cases of infection. Thus making the United States a global hotspot of the pandemic.
The question is how has the United States gotten to this sorry state that has led to the death of thousands of Americans and counting?
All indications so far point to a failure of leadership and the politicization of the global coronavirus pandemic by the Trump administration.
From blaming China and the World Health Organisation’s US president Trump”s messaging has been one of denial and a hope that somehow the virus would magically go away and disappear.
Trump’s public messaging about the coronavirus has been a disaster since January. At no time did he took the virus seriously or devised a national response strategy. He equally failed to mobilised a global response strategy but rather pursued a unilateral and an America only strategy by negotiating future deals with pharmaceutical companies that guarantee that only America has access to future Covid-19 vaccines.
The recent publication of Bob Woodward’s book “Rage” gives an insight into Trump’s leadership failure that allowed the virus to spiral out of control in the US and its consequential effect on the global efforts to contain the virus.
The Trump and journalist Woodward interview has allowed the public to hear and understand what Trump was saying about the virus behind closed doors.
In the series of interviews which collectively lasted nine hours, Trump indicated he was more aware of the threat than he was conveying publicly. And he admitted to playing down the threat, concealing what he knew about how deadly and contagious the virus was.
Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward as far back as in March that he deliberately downplayed the dangers posed by the virus so as not to cause panic even as he recognized how “deadly” the virus was.
In another clip of the interview as reported by CNN, Trump is quoted to have said., “I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic,” Mr Trump told Woodward.
Even when there was scientific evidence that wearing a mask offered protection from contracting and spreading the virus, Trump was in denial. He neither wore a mask nor encouraged do his supporters to wear a mask.
Taken together, Trump’s private comments and public pronouncements reveal two distinct narratives. What he knew was the infallible truth backed by science was far from what he told the American people. In fact, Trump was more concerned with his public perception than he was with the lives of people. Even after contracting the virus, he continues to downplay its seriousness while getting the best care backed by science.