World Health Assembly – 24 May 2021; Opening Statements

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 ACT‑Accelerator 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…