Oct. 7, 2021

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 7 October 2021

WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 - 7 October 2021
7 October 2021
More than 6.4 billion vaccine doses have now been administered globally, and almost one-third of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But those numbers mask a horrifying inequity. Low-income countries have received less than half of one percent of the world’s vaccines. In Africa, less than 5% of people are fully vaccinated.
Today, WHO is launching the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022. The strategy outlines the road we must all take together to achieve our targets of vaccinating 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year.
With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably.
We can only achieve our targets if the countries and companies that control vaccine supply put contracts for COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust – or AVAT – first for deliveries and donated doses. Vaccine equity will accelerate the end of the pandemic.
Yesterday, after a global consultation with patients and experts, WHO published a clinical case definition for post COVID-19 condition. This standardized definition will help clinicians to identify patients more easily and provide them the appropriate care, and is crucial for advancing recognition and research. WHO encourages all national authorities, policy makers and clinicians to adopt this definition.
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Good morning, good afternoon and good evening.

At this press conference almost exactly one year ago, I said that the world was eagerly anticipating the results of trials of vaccines against COVID-19.

And I said that once we had a vaccine, we must use it effectively, by making sure it’s available to all countries equitably.

The development and approval of vaccines in record time took us to the summit of scientific achievement; now we stand on the precipice of failure, if we don’t make the benefits of science available to all people in all countries, right now.

More than 6.4 billion vaccine doses have now been administered globally, and almost one-third of the world’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But those numbers mask a horrifying inequity.

High- and upper-middle income countries have used 75% of all vaccines produced so far.

Low-income countries have received less than half of one percent of the world’s vaccines. In Africa, less than 5% of people are fully vaccinated.

As you know, earlier this year WHO set a target for all countries to vaccinate 10% of their populations by the end of September. 56 countries didn’t make it, through no fault of their own.

Today, WHO is launching the Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022.

The strategy outlines the road we must all take together to achieve our targets of vaccinating 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year.

Achieving these targets will require at least 11 billion vaccine doses.

This is not a supply problem; it’s an allocation problem.

By the end of September, almost 6-and-a-half billion doses had already been administered worldwide. With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably.

Contracts are in place for the remaining 5 billion doses. But it’s critical that those doses go where they are needed most – with priority given to older people, health workers and other at-risk groups.

We can only achieve our targets if the countries and companies that control vaccine supply put contracts for COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust – or AVAT – first for deliveries and donated doses.

We have the tools to bring the pandemic under control, if we use them properly and share them fairly. And we must remember that vaccines are a powerful tool, but not the only one – all countries must continue with a comprehensive, risk-based approach of public health and social measures, in combination with equitable vaccination.

Vaccine equity will accelerate the end of the pandemic. Achieving WHO’s vaccine equity targets will substantially increase population immunity globally, protect health systems, enable economies to fully restart, and reduce the risk of new variants emerging.

Today I’m delighted to be joined by the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, who like us, has long called for global vaccine equity.

Secretary-General, thank you for your support and advocacy throughout the pandemic, and your special focus on vaccine equity. Welcome, and you have the floor.

[SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES ADDRESSED THE MEDIA]

Thank you so much, Secretary-General Guterres, thank you for your leadership. As you said, this plan can only succeed with everyone’s cooperation.

We call on all countries to update their national COVID-19 vaccine targets and plans, to guide manufacturing investment and vaccine distribution;

We call on countries with high vaccine coverage to swap delivery schedules with COVAX and AVAT, and to fulfil their dose-sharing pledges immediately;

We call on vaccine-producing countries to allow free cross-border flow of finished vaccines and raw materials, and to enable sharing of know-how, technology and licenses;

We call on vaccine manufacturers to prioritize and fulfil contracts with COVAX and AVAT as a matter of urgency, to be more transparent on what is going where, and to share know-how and non-exclusive licenses to enable all regions to increase manufacturing capacity;

We call on civil society, community organizations and the private sector to continue to advocate local, nationally and globally for equitable access not just to vaccines, but also to tests and treatments;

We call on all countries to ensure they have the capacities in place to use all doses as rapidly and efficiently as possible;

And we call on global and regional multilateral development banks to support countries to more rapidly access the capital they need to fund vaccine delivery programmes.

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Finally, although equitable distribution of vaccines will help to end the pandemic, its effects will continue to be felt for many years – especially for the people who have been infected and will continue to suffer from the effects of post COVID-19 condition, also known as “long COVID”.

Yesterday, after a global consultation with patients and experts, WHO published a clinical case definition for post COVID-19 condition.

The definition says that post COVID-19 condition usually occurs 3 months from the onset of COVID-19, with symptoms that last for at least 2 months, and which cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis. Some patients have reported symptoms of post COVID-19 condition for much longer than 2 months.

Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, cognitive dysfunction, and others that have an impact on everyday functioning.

This standardized definition will help clinicians to identify patients more easily and provide them the appropriate care, and is crucial for advancing recognition and research.

WHO encourages all national authorities, policy makers and clinicians to a