Now is the MassNews to Address the Global Health Equity Gap
WWhile the attention has been on COVID-19 for a while, non-communicable disease (NCD) deaths continue to be a major problem in poor countries. More than 15,000,000 people are killed by NCDs each year between 30 and 69 years old. 85% of the premature deaths in these countries is due to low- or middle-income nations. More people are dying from cancer than malaria in Africa. However, the majority of new cancer treatments still haven’t reached low-income countries. All of these conditions can be treated, but the obstacles that prevent them reaching patients remain complex and persistent.
Over the last two years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have learned that when you let go of ‘business as usual’ and rethink the norm, we achieve breakthroughs. It took us nine months to develop a vaccine, and 18 months to create a treatment. Then we produced and shipped three billion vaccines to more than 180 countries in one year.
Another breakthrough is needed: ending the inequalities that exists between poor and wealthy nations on health. This disparity cannot continue. No matter where you live or what your income is, everyone has equal rights to high-quality vaccines and medicine. Now is the right time to ask: How can we use the lessons learned from our battle against COVID-19 for all diseases, and redefine what it means to have access quality health care?
While the need is obvious, it is not easy to determine how to achieve this.
New medicines can take anywhere from four to seven years to get approved in sub-Saharan Africa. For smaller countries, procurement channels can prove difficult and time-consuming. Initiatives such as the Africa Medical Supplies Platform and the Africa Vaccines Acquisition Trust have been a great help during the COVID-19 Pandemic. They allow for pooled procurement, increasing transparency and cost effectiveness in emergency medicine and supplies. Still there’s more work to do.
Today, Pfizer is launching ‘An Accord for a Healthier World’ as a major first step to apply what we have learned and bring new resources to address the health equity gap. The Accord is a first-of-its kind, comprehensive initiative that will focus on greatly increasing access for 1.2 billion people living in 45 lower-income countries – all 27 low-income countries and 18 countries that have transitioned from low-income to lower-middle-income classification in the last 10 years. We have committed to provide our patented, high-quality medicines and vaccines available in the U.S. or the European Union—both current and future products—on a not-for-profit basis to the governments of these countries.
Although hundreds of millions are free COVID-19 vaccines, only 15% of adults in Africa have been vaccinated. As the pandemic demonstrated that supplies are only part of helping patients, the Accord will allow us to work together with global partners and governments to develop quick, efficient regulatory pathways, procurement systems, and other tools to accelerate access to vaccines, address unmet needs, and mobilise resources. These include technical support for regulatory processes, innovation supply chain solutions, better diagnostic capabilities, financing solutions, and other solutions to aid governments in achieving long-term success.
There is no one business or government that can solve the problems of inequality in healthcare. Pfizer is just one of many companies that have tried for decades to eliminate barriers to health equity. We must not accept the status quo, even though there have been significant improvements. This seemingly impossible task requires a strengthened framework to foster global partnerships, innovation and scaleable solutions. We want the Accord as a catalyst for multi-disciplinary collaboration to implement solutions throughout the healthcare ecosystem.
All those who agree with our commitment are invited to join us in making bold and courageous new equity promises and working together to eliminate barriers to improved health and improve the lives of all people.
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