With more COVID-19 cases reported in the first five months of 2021 than in the whole of 2020, the world is still in the acute phase of the pandemic despite high vaccination rates in some countries protecting populations from severe disease and death. Inadequate testing and low vaccination rates are exacerbating disease transmission and overwhelming local health systems, while leaving the whole world vulnerable to new variants, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Many countries are experiencing new waves of infections – and while many high-income countries and some upper-middle-income countries have implemented widespread vaccinations, put more robust testing systems in place, and made treatments increasingly available – many low- and lower-middle-income countries are struggling to access these vital tools due to a lack of funds and supplies. Investing in the ACT-Accelerator to make tools available to everyone, everywhere, will benefit all countries through a more globally inclusive and coordinated response.
While four variants of concern currently dominate the epidemiology, there are fears that new, and possibly more dangerous, variants of concern may emerge.
With hard-won gains of the last three months at risk, the ACT-Accelerator has mounted a US$ 7.7 billion appeal, the Rapid ACT-Accelerator Delta Response (RADAR), to urgently:
- Scale up testing: US$2.4 billion to put all low- and lower-middle-income countries on track towards a ten-fold increase in COVID-19 testing and ensure all countries get up to satisfactory testing levels. This will significantly enhance local and global understanding of the changing disease epidemiology and emerging variants of concern, inform the appropriate application of public health and social measures and break chains of transmission.
- Maintain R&D efforts to stay ahead of the virus: US$ 1 billion for ongoing R&D, enable further market shaping and manufacturing, technical assistance and demand generation to ensure that tests, treatments and vaccines remain effective against the Delta variant and other emerging variants, and that they are accessible and affordable where they are needed.
- Address acute oxygen needs to save lives: US$ 1.2 billion to rapidly address acute oxygen needs to treat the seriously ill and control the exponential death surges caused by the Delta variant.
- Rollout of tools: US$ 1.4 billion to help countries identify and address key bottlenecks for the effective deployment and use of all COVID-19 tools. As supply of COVID-19 vaccines ramps up in the coming months, flexible funding will be essential to help fill on-the-ground delivery gaps.
- Protect frontline healthcare workers: US$ 1.7 billion to provide two million essential healthcare workers with enough basic PPE to keep them safe while they care for the sick, prevent the collapse of health systems where the health workforce is already understaffed and overstretched, and prevent further spread of COVID-19.
In addition to the US$ 7.7 billion appeal, there is an opportunity to reserve the supply of vaccines through exercising options in the fourth quarter of 2021 for 760 million doses of vaccine to be available in mid-2022 beyond the fully subsidized doses that COVAX will deliver up to the end of Q1 2022. Commitments to reserve these vaccine options in the last quarter of the year for delivery in the middle of 2022 can be made to Gavi/COVAX, as part of the ACT-A network of agencies.
The ACT-Accelerator recently published its Q2 2021 Update Report, which provides an overview of the progress made in bringing life-saving COVID-19 tools to countries around the world, and highlights the efforts made to ensure health systems are able to receive and fully optimize the use of COVID-19 countermeasures, during the April-to-June 2021 period. It shows how investments made to the ACT-Accelerator have driven results and impact in the fight against COVID-19.
The ACT Accelerator’s work is more vital than ever as new variants of the virus threaten to resist current COVID-19 tools, posing the risk of more death, illness, and social and economic harm. The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work, or pillars:
- A diagnostics pillar, co-convened by FIND and the Global Fund, with support from UNITAID, UNICEF and WHO
- A therapeutics pillar, co-convened by Wellcome and UNITAID, with support from WHO, UNICEF and the Global Fund
- A vaccines pillar, COVAX, led by CEPI, Gavi and WHO and implementing partner UNICEF
- A health systems connector, led by the World Bank, Global Fund and WHO