A letter to The Lancet from Ms Gabriela Cueva and Dr Justin...
We congratulate all those involved in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator. ACT-A is the fastest and most coordinated global effort in history to develop tools to fight a new disease. That over 100 countries have already received lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX is a remarkable achievement.
Yet we join the ACT-A partners in demanding much, much more. As Dr Tedros has said, the world faces a catastrophic moral failure. Just 0.2% of the COVID vaccine doses administered globally have been in low-income countries. Fair access to vaccines and other COVID-19 tools must become a reality, both within and between countries.
Moreover, the pandemic has exposed wider inequalities. Health is a fundamental human right and foundation of economic prosperity and security. Just as everyone, everywhere should have access to quality, safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines, they should also have access to quality and affordable health services across their health needs. But less than half the world’s population is covered by essential health services.
As co-chairs of the multi-stakeholder movement for universal health coverage, we have three simple messages for global leaders and the global health community:
- Redouble your efforts on vaccine equity, paying special attention to the needs of marginalized and vulnerable groups and women and girls
- Act on your universal health coverage commitments
- Work together to build health systems that protect everyone.
This third point is crucial. The rationale for the ACT-A Health Systems Connector is that vaccines only get into peoples’ arms if there are functioning supply chains and storage, accessible health facilities, well-trained health workers, effective involvement of communities, and so on. In many countries, COVID-19 has hampered the ability of those same health systems to deliver other essential health services. In some countries it has exposed a relative neglect of core public health functions. ‘Building better’ must mean investing, in a joined-up way, in the foundations of health systems that protect us all. Leaders should prioritize this at the Global Health Summit next month.
For our part, we will ensure that UHC2030 continues to demand and promote political commitment and collective action for stronger health systems and UHC. We are proud to bring together a diverse and lively partnership that includes governments, parliamentarians, civil society, private sector, international agencies, global health networks and academia. We look forward to continued collaboration with ACT-A partners and working together towards a safer and healthier world.