Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, has appointed Mr Carl Bildt as WHO Special Envoy for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-Accelerator).
In his role as WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator, Carl Bildt will help lead the collective advocacy for the ACT-Accelerator, mobilizing support and resources so it can deliver against its strategy for 2021.
He will also support the leaders of the ACT-Accelerator co-convening agencies, particularly in aligning work that cuts across the diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines pillars and health-system connector; consult widely on the work of the ACT-Accelerator; advise the Director-General, ACT-Accelerator principals and stakeholders on emerging issues; and represent the ACT-Accelerator in key national and international fora.
Carl Bildt joins the ACT-Accelerator at a pivotal time when the world rolls out vaccines against COVID-19, introduces new diagnostics and scales up life-saving oxygen and corticosteroids for severe disease, while addressing the uneven distribution of vaccines globally and the emergence of new variants of concern.
The past year has highlighted the need for a globally coordinated response to the pandemic that prioritizes equitable access to COVID-19 tools and is fueled by sufficient financial investment. The ACT-Accelerator partnership, of leading public health organizations, is the only global initiative offering an integrated, end-to-end solution to expedite the end of the pandemic through the equitable distribution of vaccines, tests and treatments.
Carl Bildt has had an extensive career dedicated to working for the global common good. He served as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, and is a renowned international diplomat, having been EU Special Envoy to the Former Yugoslavia; High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina; UN Special Envoy to the Balkan;, and Co-Chair of the Dayton Peace Conference.
Dr Tedros said, “Former Prime Minister Bildt’s appointment as Special Envoy for the ACT -Accelerator comes at a time when global solidarity and equitable access to life-saving tools are more important than ever. We are fortunate to have him in this important leadership role, helping us to get therapeutics, diagnostics, and vaccines to health workers and vulnerable populations around the world.”
Carl Bildt, said: “I am honoured to have been appointed as WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator. As a unique instrument of coordination for the global effort to fight the pandemic, the ACT-Accelerator has proved its worth during the past year. But with infections rising in all regions of the world, and with the danger of vaccine nationalism growing, work must be intensified across the entire range of efforts to fight the pandemic. It’s a question of saving lives, protecting health systems and getting the global economy going again.”
Carl Bildt succeeds Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Sir Andrew Witty in this special envoy role.
Notes to Editors
The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is the proven, up-and-running global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.
The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organization but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organizations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organizations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.
The ACT-Accelerator comprises four pillars: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and health system strengthening.
- The diagnostics pillar co-convened by the Global Fund and FIND is focused on ensuring equitable access to new and existing tests, supporting country uptake and deployment and strengthening the diagnostic portfolio with R&D investments in low-cost, easy-to-use and quality tests. In 2021, it is focused on procuring and distributing at least 900 million molecular and AG-RDTs to LMICs.
- The therapeutics pillar is led by Unitaid and Wellcome. Therapeutics can play a role in all stages of COVID-19 disease: to prevent infection; suppress symptoms and spread of infection to others; treat or prevent symptoms; as a life-saving treatment for severe symptoms; and as a treatment that can speed up recovery. The aim in the next 12 months is to develop, manufacture and distribute millions of treatment doses, helping COVID-19 sufferers to recover from the disease.
- The vaccines pillar, convened by CEPI, Gavi and WHO, is speeding up the search for an effective vaccine for all countries. At the same time, it is supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities, and buying supply, ahead of time so that at least 2 billion doses can be fairly distributed to the most high risk and highly exposed populations globally by the end of 2021.
- The health systems connector pillar, led by the World Bank, the Global Fund and WHO, is working to ensure that these tools can reach the people who need them.
- Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation, led by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Since April 2020, the ACT-Accelerator has supported the fastest, most coordinated, and successful global effort in history to develop tools to fight a disease. With significant advances in research and development by academia, private sector and government initiatives, the ACT-Accelerator has advanced our understanding of what works to fight the disease. It has transformed our ability to tackle COVID-19 on a global scale: vaccines are poised to roll-out worldwide, low-cost high-performing antigen rapid diagnostic tests can now detect transmission anywhere, affordable therapy for severe disease can save lives in any setting, and health systems are being prepared for the roll out of tools.
Find out more: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator
Postcard from the field: Responding to the Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo
WHO calls for further studies, data on origin of SARS-CoV-2 virus, reiterates that all hypotheses remain open
The report of the international team on their Wuhan field visit, from 14 January -10 February 2021, was published today as WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for further studies.
The report stems from a Member State resolution adopted by consensus at the World Health Assembly in May 2020 and calling on WHO “to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions.”
In remarks to Member States today, Dr Tedros, who received the full report on the weekend, thanked the team for their tireless work. He said it advances our understanding in important ways, while raising questions that will need to be addressed by further studies, as noted in the report. “As far as WHO is concerned, all hypotheses remain on the table. This report is a very important beginning, but it is not the end. We have not yet found the source of the virus, and we must continue to follow the science and leave no stone unturned as we do,” said Dr Tedros. “Finding the origin of a virus takes time and we owe it to the world to find the source so we can collectively take steps to reduce the risk of this happening again. No single research trip can provide all the answers.”
The report is available on this webpage:
Below is the full text of the Director-General’s remarks that can be found here:
From the very beginning of the pandemic WHO has stressed the need to understand the origin of the virus in order to better understand the emergence of new pathogens and possible exposures.
Only a few weeks into the outbreak, the IHR Emergency Committee of independent experts recommended that WHO and China pursue efforts to identify the animal source of the virus.
Throughout 2020, WHO continued to discuss with China and other Member States the need to study and share information around the virus origins.
The World Health Assembly resolution of May 2020, which was adopted by all Member States, cited a need “to identify the zoonotic source”:
- WHA73.1 from 19 May 2020: 9. (6) to continue to work closely with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and countries, as part of the One-Health Approach to identify the zoonotic source of the virus and the route of introduction to the human population, including the possible role of intermediate hosts, including through efforts such as scientific and collaborative field missions, which will enable targeted interventions and a research agenda to reduce the risk of similar events occurring, as well as to provide guidance on how to prevent infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV2) in animals and humans and prevent the establishment of new zoonotic reservoirs, as well as to reduce further risks of emergence and transmission of zoonotic diseases;
In July 2020 WHO sent a small team to China to plan a joint study comprising Chinese and independent international scientists.
It was agreed that WHO would select the international scientists. The Terms of Reference for the Virus Origins Study were completed by fall 2020.
The team of scientists came from around the world: Australia, China, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Kenya, Netherlands, Qatar, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Viet Nam.
The joint international team comprised 17 Chinese and 17 international experts from 10 other countries as well as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE); and WHO.
- Find the list of the members of the international team here.
From the outset, this study was designed as one step on the path of understanding the origins of COVID-19 reflecting the specific scope and mandate as outlined by Member States in the World Health Assembly resolution and negotiated Terms of Reference.