Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) was addressing the Aspen Security Forum, which brings together top-level present and former government officials from the United States.
The Americas remain the current epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For all our differences, we are one human race sharing the same planet and our security is interdependent – no country will be safe, until we’re all safe”, he told the virtual meeting.
“I urge all leaders to choose the path of cooperation and act now to end this pandemic! It’s not just the smart choice, it’s the right choice and it’s the only choice we have.”
Invest in preparedness
Tedros said the pandemic has “stress tested” the global political, economic, cultural and social infrastructure, pushing national health systems everywhere, to their limits.
“The world spends billions every year preparing for potential terrorist attacks but we’ve learned lessons the hard way that unless we invest in pandemic preparedness and the climate crisis, we leave ourselves open to enormous harm”, he said.
As no country can fight the virus alone, Tedros said “our best way forward is to stick with science, solutions and solidarity, and together we can overcome this pandemic.”
Against “vaccine nationalism”
During a question-and-answer session moderated by US network TV news host, Lester Holt, the WHO chief was asked about ensuring fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine when one is developed.
Tedros warned against “vaccine nationalism” in a globalized world.
In April, WHO and partners launched the ACT Accelerator to speed up development of vaccines and medicines against the disease, and to ensure that they will be available to people everywhere.
“But to make it happen, especially fair distribution, there should be a global consensus to make a vaccine, any product, a global public product. And this is a political choice, a political commitment, and we want political leaders to decide on this,” he said.
“What we’re saying is sharing vaccines, or sharing other tools, actually helps the world to recover together, and the economic recovery can be faster and the damage from COVID-19 could be less.”