SWITZERLAND —The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator has launched a six months program that will focus on vaccinating high-risk populations, introducing new treatments, increasing testing, and ensuring long-term access to COVID-19 tools.
The plan was developed in response to the fact that many discussions are currently taking place about changes that need to be implemented to improve the global health architecture for pandemic preparedness and response (PPR) based on the world’s experience with COVID-19.
The ACT-Accelerator has so far managed to deliver more than 1.6 billion vaccines to Advance Market Commitment countries, and 75% of the COVAX vaccines were delivered in low-income countries.
Additionally, more than 145 million tests, 40 million treatment courses, and personal protective equipment worth US$2 billion have been delivered to low and middle-income countries (LMICs) according to a media release.
The initiative’s other remarkable milestone is that prices of rapid tests have been halved and voluntary licenses for oral antivirals agreed.
Recognizing the evolving nature of the COVID-19 virus and pandemic, the changes to the ACT- Accelerator’s structure and methods of operation will ensure that countries continue to have access to COVID-19 tools in the long term and in the event of disease outbreaks.
The plan outlines how the ACT-Accelerator will assist countries with long-term COVID-19 control as a collaboration of global health agencies, government, civil society, and other partners.
The plan also highlights work that will be maintained, transitioned, sunsetted, or kept on standby. The transition plan assists ACT-A agencies as they evolve their COVID-19 financing, implementation, and mainstreaming efforts.
The next phase of ACT-A partners’ work will focus on three broad areas: R&D and market-shaping activities to ensure a pipeline of new and improved products COVID-19 tools, institutional arrangements for sustained access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments for all countries, including oxygen in-country work on new product introduction (e.g., new oral antivirals).
The plan will also ensure protection of priority populations in support of national and international targets.
Other changes outlined in the plan include the formation of a new ACT-A Tracking and Monitoring Taskforce co-chaired by senior officials from India and the United States, as well as the reactivation of the political-level Facilitation Council in the event of a severe disease outbreak.
Separately, last month the World Health Organization warned that coronavirus pandemic is “nowhere near over,” citing new waves around the world and voicing concern the virus is “running freely”.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was worried that case numbers were continuing to rise and “putting further pressure on stretched health systems and health workers.”
Amid increasing COVID transmission and rising hospitalizations, Tedros urged governments to deploy tried and tested measures like masking, improved ventilation and test and treat protocols.
On a positive outlook, the newly available bivalent booster shots, which target both the original coronavirus strain and the currently circulating omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, may provide better infection and transmission protection, as well as longer-lasting protection against severe illness.