New York

22 September 2021

Secretary-General's remarks to U.S.-hosted Global COVID-19 Summit "Ending the pandemic and building back better health security to prepare for the next" [as delivered]

President Biden, Excellencies,

I want to thank President Biden for this important initiative to help mobilise the international community to boost our joint efforts to vaccinate everybody everywhere and to thank him for the announcements he made today.

Global health security until now has failed, to the tune of 4.5 million lives, and counting.

We have effective vaccines against COVID-19. We can end the pandemic.

And that is why I have been appealing for a global vaccination plan and I hope this summit is a step in that direction.

Because the virus continues to circulate. And even in places where cases were decreasing, new variants are driving dangerous spikes and waves.

More than 5.7 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally, but 73 percent have been in just 10 countries. High-income countries have administered 61 times more doses per inhabitant than low-income countries. Just 3 percent of Africans have been vaccinated.

Now the G7 pledge of a billion doses was a fraction of what is needed – and has not yet been fully materialized.

And while vaccines were developed with public funds, they are emerging as a $100 billion industry, with middle-income countries spending hundreds of millions of dollars to immunize their people in a seller’s market.

This is not only disappointing.

It is baffling.

Global vaccination is not philanthropy; it is self-interest. 

The larger the pool of unvaccinated people, the more the virus will keep circulating and evolving into new variants – and the greater the economic and social disruption.

I repeat my call for a global vaccination plan to at least double vaccine production and ensure 2.3 billion doses are equitably distributed through COVAX to reach 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year and 70 percent in the first half of 2022, as WHO recommends.

This plan could be implemented by an emergency team made up of the countries that produce or have the potential to produce vaccines, the World Health Organization, COVAX partners and international financial institutions and the WTO, working with pharmaceutical companies, to double vaccine production and ensure equitable distribution.

This is necessary to solve the problems of intellectual property, the problems of technical support to the countries that can produce vaccines but need to be sure that they have all the safety guarantees in their production and, together, the power and the money that the group of countries I mentioned have.

And the United Nations will of course continue to support vaccine rollout in countries and communities that are hardest to reach.

Excellencies,

The world cannot manage the next pandemic with tools tailored to the past.

The recommendations of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response must be a starting point for urgent reforms to strengthen the global health architecture. 

The World Health Organization must be empowered, its authority enhanced and better funded so that it can play a leading role in coordinating emergency response.

Global health security and preparedness must be strengthened through sustained political commitment and leadership at the highest level. Low- and middle-income countries must be able to develop and access health technologies.

Our world is wealthy.

Our vaccines are effective.

Our goal is clear.

Together, we must end this pandemic and build a safer world for the future.

Thank you.