Milestones :: Perspectives :: Research
World Health Assembly
Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly #WHA74
24 May to 1 June 2021
Theme: Ending this pandemic, preventing the next: building together a healthier, safer and fairer world.
:: Provisional agenda
:: Watch live WHA74 sessions
Double COVID-19 Vaccine Production, Bolster Primary Health-Care Systems to Prepare for Next Global Emergency, Secretary-General Tells World Health Assembly
24 May 2021 SG/SM/20740
[Excerpt focused on COVID vaccines/vaccination]
…We are at war with a virus. We need the logic and urgency of a war economy, to boost the capacity of our weapons. On Friday, I called on the [Group of 20] (G20) to set up a task force that brings together all countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization, the ACT-Accelerator partners and international financial institutions, able to deal with the pharmaceutical companies and other key stakeholders.
It should aim to at least double manufacturing capacity by exploring all options, from voluntary licenses and technology transfers to patent pooling and flexibility on intellectual property rights. The task force should address equitable global distribution by using the ACTAccelerator and its COVAX Facility. The G20 task force should be co-convened at the highest levels by the major Powers who hold most of the global supply and production capacity, together with the multilateral system. I am ready to mobilize the entire United Nations system to support this effort…
Director-General’s opening remarks at the World Health Assembly – 24 May 2021
[Excerpt focused on COVID vaccines/vaccination]
…The ongoing vaccine crisis is a scandalous inequity that is perpetuating the pandemic. More than 75% of all vaccines have been administered in just 10 countries. There is no diplomatic way to say it: a small group of countries that make and buy the majority of the world’s vaccines control the fate of the rest of the world.
The number of doses administered globally so far would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people, if they had been distributed equitably. We could have been in a much better situation.
I understand that every government has a duty to protect its own people. I understand that every government wants to vaccinate its entire population. That’s what we want too. And in time, there will be enough supply for everyone, including those at lower risk.
But right now, there is not enough supply. Countries that vaccinate children and other low-risk groups now do so at the expense of health workers and high-risk groups in other countries. That’s the reality.
At the Executive Board meeting in January, I issued a challenge to see vaccination of health workers and older people underway in all countries within the first 100 days of the year. That target was very nearly achieved. But the number of doses available to COVAX remains vastly inadequate.
COVAX works. We have shipped every single one of the 72 million doses we have been able to get our hands on so far to 125 countries and economies. But those doses are sufficient for barely 1 percent of the combined population of those countries.
So today I am calling on Member States to support a massive push to vaccinate at least 10 percent of the population of every country by September, and a “drive to December” to achieve our goal of vaccinating at least 30 percent by the end of the year. This is crucial to stop severe disease and death, keep our health workers safe and reopen our societies and economies.
Sprinting to our September goal means we must vaccinate 250 million more people in low- and middle-income countries in just four months, including all health workers and the most at-risk groups as the first priority. These are the minimum targets we should aim for.
At the G20 Global Health Summit on Friday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva proposed vaccinating 40 percent of the world’s population by the end of the year and 60 percent by mid-2022.
We are in discussions with the IMF, Member States and our partners about how to make these ambitious targets achievable.
Here’s how the “Drive to December” must happen:
First, share doses through COVAX, now. I welcome the commitments made by Member States to donate doses, including the important announcements made at the G20 Global Health Summit on Friday.
But to achieve the goals for September and the end of the year, we need hundreds of millions more doses, we need them to go through COVAX, and we need them to start moving in early June.
Manufacturers must play their part, by ensuring any country that wants to share doses through COVAX can do it within days, not months.
I call on all manufacturers to give COVAX first right of refusal on new volume of vaccines, or to commit 50% of their volumes to COVAX this year. And we need every country that receives vaccines to use them as quickly as possible. No dose can lay idle, or worse, be thrown away. Country-level preparations to reach their populations must move as fast as vaccines.
Second, scale-up manufacturing. The bottom line is that we need a lot more doses, we need them fast, and we must leave no stone unturned to get them. Several manufacturers have said they have capacity to produce vaccines if the originator companies are willing to share licenses, technology and know-how. I find it difficult to understand why this has not happened yet.
I thank India and South Africa for their initiative at the World Trade Organization to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 products, and I thank those countries that are supporting these efforts. And we urge Member States and manufacturers to join C-TAP, the WHO COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, which provides a powerful mechanism for sharing licenses in a non-exclusive, transparent way. I thank Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez for his commitment that Spain will join C-TAP, and we expect more good news in the coming days.
And third, fully fund the ACT Accelerator. There remains an 18.5 billion US dollar gap in the ACT Accelerator.
Ultimately, the pandemic has shown clearly that in an emergency, low and lower-middle income countries cannot rely on imports from vaccine-producing countries. I welcome the draft resolution on strengthening local production of medicines and other health technologies that Member States will consider at this Assembly.
I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deep appreciation to President Biden for reversing the decision to take the United States out of WHO, for donating US$4 billion to COVAX, and also for their announcement that they will donate 80 million vaccine doses globally – these are the largest contributions announced – and for supporting the intellectual property waiver…
Update from the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly – 29 May 2021
29 May 2021 News release
New resolutions on:
:: Local production of medicines
:: Ending violence against children
:: Addressing social determinants of health
Strengthening local production of medicines and other health technologies to improve access
Member State requests for WHO’s support in strengthening local production have been increasing in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight even more the urgent need for enhancing quality manufacturing capacity in all regions of the world, including for innovative, highly effective health products such as mRNA technologies. Such capacity is necessary to address or even avert future public health emergencies and to improve access to health products in general through stronger health systems.
Sponsored by more than 100 countries, today’s resolution specifically calls for a more comprehensive, all-of-government approach, national strategies and action plans, an enabling business environment, human capital development, multi-stakeholder collaboration and engagement in regional and global networks.
WHO has already committed to holding the first ever World Local Production Forum in June this year, convening countries, partners and other stakeholders to discuss strategies to promote local production to improve access to health products during the current pandemic and beyond…
Tackling social determinants of health
…The resolution aims to strengthen action globally and within countries on the social determinants of health; to reduce health inequities by involving all sectors in taking concrete action to improve living conditions and reduce social inequalities; and improve monitoring of social determinants and health inequities. The resolution lists actions to be taken by governments, civil society, international organizations, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector and the WHO Secretariat, including in continuing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and in future recovery efforts.
Update from the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly – 28 May 2021
28 May 2021 News release
:: New resolutions on the health and care workforce and strategic directions for nursing and midwifery
:: Decisions on patient safety; health, environment and climate change; chemicals management; coordination of work on noncommunicable diseases
:: Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and Wellbeing for All
:: Prevention of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment
World Health Assembly adopts new resolution on malaria
28 May 2021 Departmental news
The World Health Assembly, the main governing body of the World Health Organization, has adopted a new resolution that aims to revitalize and accelerate efforts to end malaria, a preventable and treatable disease that continues to claim more than 400 000 lives annually…
The resolution urges Member States to step up the pace of progress through plans and approaches that are consistent with WHO’s updated global malaria strategy and the WHO Guidelines for malaria. It calls on countries to extend investment in and support for health services, ensuring no one is left behind; sustain and scale up sufficient funding for the global malaria response; and boost investment in the research and development of new tools…
Update from the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly – 27 May 2021
27 May 2021 News release
:: New resolutions on diabetes, health for people with disabilities; malaria; oral health
:: Decisions on eye care; HIV, Hepatitis and STIs; neglected tropical diseases, noncommunicable diseases
:: WHO programme budget approved 2022-2023
IOAC statement at the Seventy-fourth World Health Assembly, 25 May 2021
Independent Oversight and Advisory Committee for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme – IOAC
25 May 2021 Statement