At the beginning of the third year of the global response to COVID-19, a pandemic that has changed lives and affected almost every aspect of society around the world, there is a need to redouble efforts to mitigate the ongoing acute effects of this disease, while moving the vision towards sustained disease control. Achieving these common goals requires sustained international cooperation, and governments and stakeholders must continue to exchange information, including experience from the earlier stages of the pandemic.
On Thursday, March 3, Health and Human Secretary Xavier Becerra hosted a virtual health dialogue with health ministers and key multilateral and regional organizations to listen, learn and apply collective lessons in seeking a more comprehensive COVID-19 response. He was joined by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Ms. Loyce Pace, HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs. Dr. Fauci provided framework comments on the state of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapy. Secretary Becerra thanked her fellow Ministers of Health, the European Commission and the World Health Organization for their sustained leadership, vigilance and innovative thinking over the past two years, facilitating a dialogue on experiences, barriers and opportunities to end the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022
The Secretary and other Ministers discussed the challenges facing their respective communities and countries, acknowledging the extraordinary progress made to date, but also noted the significant threat that COVID-19 still poses. Ministers discussed general COVID fatigue and the challenges facing healthcare professionals, while also exploring opportunities to leverage experience to promote and accelerate vaccine confidence, combat maladministration and strengthen healthcare systems in this next phase of the pandemic response. Participants recognized the importance of countries’ full commitment to ongoing global health architecture efforts, such as strengthening international health regulations.
The participants also discussed possible ways forward for all countries, especially low- and middle-income countries, including thinking more critically about how to build and maintain local and regional capacity, improve regulatory harmonization and strengthen monitoring efforts. Participants repeatedly emphasized the importance of sustained cooperation, partnership, information sharing and justice as key elements in ending this pandemic once and for all and in preventing and detecting future outbreaks.
As part of new U.S. efforts to contribute to the global COVID-19 response, the Secretary shared that the U.S. National Institutes of Health has offered several technologies to the COVID-19 Technology Access Pool for potential licensing through the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP). The United States is concluding talks with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the MPP and welcomes other governments and rights holders to join the United States to contribute to this important initiative. Secretary Becerra also shared that going forward, HHS will work with manufacturers to promote global access to emergency public health products in future purchase agreements.
The participants included ministerial and senior management from Argentina, Australia, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the EU, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Oman, Rwanda, South Africa, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, Vietnam and WHO.
Secretary Becerra highlighted the need to work towards collective solutions to end the pandemic this year and ensure lasting equal access to existing and new products that can help the world in this effort. In his closing statement, Secretary Becerra urged participants to “come up with our ideas, our criticisms and our commitments, noting that countries all have a respective role to play and a valuable contribution to make in the continued fight against COVID-19. “
The Secretary of Health builds on Minister Becerra’s commitment to international counterparts to continue to protect American health at home and abroad.