Delivered at the 4th Facilitation Council Meeting
on February 9th, 2021
Remarks from Fifa Rahman – CSO Representative (Diagnostics Pillar) – Board Member, NGO Delegation, Unitaid & Carolyn Gomes – CSO Representative (Diagnostics Pillar) Alternate Board Member, Developing Country NGO Board Delegation to the Global Fund
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Carolyn Gomes ~ Prepared remarks:
All of the amazing work and technological achievements of the last year since the formation of the ACT Accelerator is under threat.
It is under threat from the SARS Cov 2 Virus which blindly seeks out any path to success, changing continuously, relentlessly, remorselessly, until one or more of its changes results in success.
Success for the virus is increased danger for the world and our efforts.
Success for the virus has rendered our efforts across all the pillars of The ACT Accelerator, less effective. The South African variant has threatened our vaccine successes to the point that South Africa may not be able to use at least one of the vaccines developed with our technology to control the suffering and death in its country and protect its heroic work force.
Success for the virus has rendered some of our hard fought gains in therapeutics ineffective just as we were beginning to roll them out and now we have to look to develop different monoclonal antibodies, more effective therapeutics.
Success for the virus threatens our testing regimes and adds new urgency and challenges in the need to track and understand the ways in which the virus is mutating and spreading in populations in ways that make it impossible to test, track, trace and control.
Perhaps, most dangerously, the success of the virus has brought another virus to the fore in the world. This virus, of selfishness, of nationalism, of me-first-ism sees new technologies for vaccines locked in vaults and not made available for manufacture in countries that have huge swaths of the uncontrolled spread and large quantities of the world’s underserved and marginalized and vulnerable.
This virus of me-first-ism sees limited money being spent in a way that is safeguarding all of us against the future: limited money on the tools needed to get us beyond the acute pandemic period; limited money on the need to adapt and increase the efficacy of existing tools; limited money on the need to respond to the unknown long-term impacts of COVID-19 on individuals (both mental and physical), health systems and economies more broadly.
And the me-first-ism virus threatens to derail all our preparations, including economic recovery, for the next epidemic.
ACT Accelerator has the power to defeat this me-first-ism virus. Indeed it has demonstrated the power of collaboration in bringing to the world the tools we have now, 11 months later.
But to defeat this virus and effectively out run the SARS CoV 2 virus it must, we must steer the ACT-A towards these ends by ensuring that:
- That equity is not only our first principle but also our LIVED reality for tools, for therapeutics, for vaccines
- All procurement contracts need to be fully transparent and open to thorough scrutiny,
- That all contracts include stipulations around open licensing and deep technology transfer
- That the voices of the LMICS and LICs find full expression and equal space in our work and at our decision making spaces
In this effort, it is NOT enough to donate our leftovers of vaccine or funds to those who cannot afford. We MUST ensure that ACT-A commitments to engage on the basis of a common understanding that unless we defeat the virus everywhere, we defeat the virus NOWHERE.
We must engage in a way that internalizes, and addresses, that without equity, without continuous, relentless, remorseless changing, strengthening and including, the virus of me-first-ism will overwhelm our efforts to end the Pandemic.
The terrifying prospect that SARS-COV-2 will beat us, defeat us, is real.
Fifa Rahman ~ Prepared Remarks:
Thank you Chair.
There’s something missing in this strategy – and that’s specific allocations and plans for the health and welfare of people living with Long COVID. And while there are still so many unknowns about the long-term prognosis of Long COVID and its pathophysiology, but emerging evidence is showing a considerable health burden, with evidence of organ dysfunction and aberrant immune responses. More than a year into this pandemic, the narrative that COVID-19 leads to binary outcomes of death or survival is not adequate.
The Office of National Statistics in the UK has estimated that 1 in 10 individuals have persisting symptoms beyond 12 weeks of infection with SARS-CoV-2.
The tools of the ACT-Accelerator can act as primary prevention tools both for death from COVID-19, but also the long-term effects of Long COVID. This will stop a huge amount of human suffering, but is also a strong case for investment and co-operation as Long COVID will be a huge burden on health systems, and indeed economies (if people are less economically active in the future as a result), providing a further strong moral, humanitarian and economic case for equitably distributing the tools required to combat COVID-19.
That the strategy doesn’t account for Long COVID is a glaring oversight which must immediately be remedied. And in line with the theme of the next session, our promise to the world at risk must include promises to people with Long COVID, and we as NGOs look forward to working with you on this.