Nearly 150 institutional investors that oversee combined assets worth more than $14 trillion have issued a joint call for a “fair and equitable” global response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and they intend to huddle with health care companies to make progress on that goal.
The investors are eyeing three efforts, starting with greater financing for the ACT Accelerator partnership, a World Health Organization program dedicated to developing, producing and ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines, therapies and diagnostics. Despite new funding pledges by G7 countries last week, the program still faces a $20 billion funding gap.
They also plan to work with the Access to Medicines Foundation, a nonprofit that tracks pharmaceutical industry progress on widening access to its products, to promote “cross-industry partnerships.” These partnerships would be focused on accelerating R&D, expanding production, creating equitable pricing strategies, and establishing voluntary licensing agreements for vaccines and medicines.
In addition, the investors plan to explore the feasibility of innovative finance mechanisms for national and global Covid-19 responses, similar to new vaccine bonds or social bonds being issued for Covid-19 programs. Last year, for instance, Novartis (NVS) sold bonds tied directly to its progress in making medicines accessible in certain low- and middle-income countries.
“The economic and financial damage triggered by Covid-19 knows no border,” said Marco Morelli, executive chairman of AXA Investment Managers. “Symmetrically, a full and lasting recovery will need to be global. If we allow the pandemic to survive in any regions, every country, even those with the most advance healthcare systems and thorough vaccination programs, will remain at risk.”
The global economy stands to lose as much as $9.2 trillion if governments fail to ensure developing economies have access to Covid-19 vaccines, according to a study from the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation. Advanced economies that can vaccinate all of their citizens will remain at risk of a sluggish recovery if infection continues to spread unabated in lower-income economies.
Meanwhile, the world’s richest countries are on track to accumulate over 1 billion more doses of Covid-19 vaccines than they need to fully vaccinate all their citizens, according to an analysis issued last week by the ONE Campaign, a civil society group. The rest of the world, however, has only been able to secure 2.5 billion vaccine doses.
Among the 148 institutional investors that support the effort are Asset Management One, Fidelity International, Nordea, Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management and Alliance Bernstein. Their goal is to achieve for Covid-19 and pandemic preparedness what investors have done for the Paris Conference and subsequent UN Climate Change Conferences.
The effort follows ongoing concerns about the progress of WHO initiatives to combat the pandemic. Despite new pledges last week of additional vaccine doses and approximately $4.5 billion in new funding commitments from G7 countries to COVAX, a WHO effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines in dozens of low-income countries, questions remain about whether the program can achieve the same level of distribution in all populations that is seen in wealthy nations.
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry has also frustrated many lower-income countries and advocacy groups by opposing a related effort launched a few months ago by the WHO. Known as the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, the entity was formed last spring to collect patent rights, regulatory test data, and other information that could be shared for developing medical products.
Dozens of countries signed on to the initiative representing a mix of small and large economies or populations, and the European Parliament also backed the idea. But the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations opposes the effort, frustrating WHO officials. Last May, for instance, Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla called the pool “nonsense” and “dangerous.”
“We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The longer the virus circulates, the longer trade and business will be disrupted and the longer the global recovery will take. Ending the pandemic, restoring confidence and rebooting the global economy requires all of us, in the public and private sectors, pulling in the same direction.”