On April 24, 2020, the UK’s First Secretary of State, Dominic Raab, joined the UN Secretary-General, World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General, and leaders from 19 other countries in pledging support for a new international 'COV-access agreement'. The agreement aims to ensure that people around the world have equal access to any newly developed coronavirus vaccines or treatments. Other signatories include France, South Africa, and Malaysia.
By signing the international COV-access agreement, these countries and global organizations agree to:
- Provide global access to new treatments, technologies, and vaccines for COVID-19;
- Engage in unprecedented levels of international partnership on research and coordinate efforts to tackle the pandemic; and
- Protect the most vulnerable communities around the world.
As part of the agreement, the WHO also announced the appointment of two Special Envoys who will lead a new global task force on COVID-19. The task force will facilitate global cooperation on vaccine research and help to ensure the equitable distribution of any newly developed vaccines. One of the Envoys is Sir Andrew Witty, a leading British scientist and the former head of global pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). The other special envoy is Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Board Chair of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The task force, set up under the auspices of the UN, may operate independently if geopolitics demand it. The US government withdrew from endorsing a G20 COVID-19 global health response recently, due to wording around the role of the WHO as the coordinating body for the global response.