The following statement—from Global Health Council, supported by the Global Health Technologies Coalition—was delivered at the 148th session of the WHO Executive Board on Agenda Item 14.1: COVID-19 response.
We commend WHO on COVID-19 responses, including providing scientific and technical guidance, facilitating surveillance and data sharing, supporting R&D of new tools and procuring PPE, diagnostics, medications and other medical supplies. The pandemic has highlighted the need to strengthen global capacities to detect, prevent and respond to infectious disease threats while protecting hard-won gains against other long-standing epidemics. As infectious diseases professionals, we call on member states to increase resources and strengthen international cooperation to accelerate efforts in vulnerable countries.
We commend WHO, CEPI, GAVI, and other COVAX partners for securing access to nearly 2 billion vaccine doses to be equitably distributed to all countries. However, countries need stronger infrastructure to effectively deliver and administer vaccines. We urge member states to invest in vaccine infrastructure and communications tools to boost vaccine confidence. Investments must be sustained beyond the pandemic to reduce the burden of vaccine-preventable diseases and better prepare for future health threats.
The pandemic is eroding gains against HIV, TB, and malaria, and increased resources are needed to regain ground. New HIV treatment initiation has dropped sharply while TB services have been disrupted in most countries. Disruptions to malaria services could result in a doubling of mortality while an additional 400,000 people could die from TB. The pandemic has disrupted immunization services, including halting 30 measles programs. If immediate actions are not taken to address COVID-19’s impacts on these health threats, we will see a reversal of progress for years to come.
Lastly, while 70% of health workers are women, they only hold 25% of decision-making roles. Women in health care want the means to deliver stronger health outcomes for everyone. Gender equity in health will form a strong foundation for global health security.