Thursday, May 30, 2024

WHO Director-General’s remarks at the World Bio Summit 2022

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Your Excellency President Yoon,

Your Excellency President Buhari,

Your Excellency Minister Cho,

And my good friend, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends,

I thank the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the government of the Republic of Korea for its global health leadership and for hosting this very important event.

In the face of the worldwide havoc wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, we made tremendous scientific progress, developing vaccines, therapeutics and tests in record time.

However, inequitable access to those tools has undermined the global response to the pandemic.

Nearly one-third of the world’s population has not yet received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including over half of health workers and about two-thirds of older people in low-income countries.

This vaccination gap imperils the global recovery and puts us all at risk.

The danger of new, more dangerous and deadly variants emerging is real.

We must learn the lessons of this pandemic.

One of the most important lessons is that manufacturing capacity for vaccines and other tools is concentrated in too few countries.

Expanding local production and strengthening local regulatory capacity are both essential for reducing health inequities between and within countries.

Next-generation vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics will be crucial to responding to future pandemics – but to be truly effective in responding to a global threat, they need to reach the countries that need them most.

Equity is key.

WHO and partners established the mRNA Technology Transfer Hub in South Africa to give low- and lower-middle income countries the know how to rapidly-produce mRNA vaccines for COVID-19, and other global health threats including malaria, tuberculosis and cancer and other health problems.

The Hub now has 15 country recipients around the world.

But for these new facilities to work, they require a skilled workforce trained in industrial grade biomanufacturing processes.

This is critical.

That’s why WHO is establishing a global biomanufacturing initiative, with its first Global Training Hub in the Republic of Korea.

For more than a year, we have been discussing with the government, including the Assembly Speaker who visited Geneva in November 2021, and discussions with various Ministers.

I saw a very strong commitment from the Government, and that is why WHO decided to establish the training center in Korea

Your Excellency, President, thank you so much for accepting this and we hope the Korean centre will be a pathfinder and a game-changer in building manufacturing locally and ensuring equity in the world.

We hope that this world-class training centre will help to build crucial capacity in the production of vaccines and biologics in countries around the world.

And Your Excellency President Buhari’s presence will help in strengthening the cooperation between high- and low- and middle-income countries.

Also key is building regulatory capacity, which has both the necessary technical expertise and the trust of their communities.

Commercial sustainability is another crucial factor.

If big facilities are built, this requires significant capital and has significant maintenance costs.

And while smaller facilities are cheaper to maintain, they would have less impact in the event of another pandemic.

Finding the balance between those is critical.

Of course, manufacturing and training alone are not enough.

We also need the multilateral structures in place to support them.

To prepare for the health emergencies of the future, we must strengthen the global health architecture and promote the sharing of scarce resources.

We can do this through the creation of a robust platform for equitable access to vaccines and other life-saving tools, building on the success of the ACT Accelerator, the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, and other multilateral initiatives. 

With the right investments, we can reduce the risks of future epidemics and pandemics, mitigate the impacts, increase the resilience of our health systems, and build a healthier, safer, fairer future.

I thank Korea for its leadership in enhancing manufacturing capacity of essential health products for the world.

I thank you. 


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