Jeremy Farrar: COVID-19 pandemic 'is nowhere near its end'

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Jeremy Farrar, director at Wellcome. Photo by: Greg Beadle / World Economic Forum / CC BY-NC-SA

New waves of coronavirus infections in countries across the world serve as a reminder that the pandemic is far from ending, Wellcome Director Jeremy Farrar said Tuesday at the fifth meeting of the Facilitation Council for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, or ACT-A.

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“We are all tired. We have all had friends, family members around the world who have been ill or died of this COVID-19. But this is the time we have to recommit,” he said during the meeting, attended virtually by policymakers and aid organization officials.

“There remains in my view too much optimism that there will be a single magic bullet that solves it all,” Farrar said.

However, waves of COVID-19 cases currently happening in Europe, South Asia, Central and South America, North America, and Africa “are a reminder that this pandemic is nowhere near its end,” he said.

Vaccines offer hope to end the pandemic’s acute phase, but equitable access to vaccines remains a challenge globally. COVAX, the global procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines, has so far shipped 31 million doses to 57 countries. But this is only a quarter of the vaccines administered in one country: the United States.

“Without diagnostics, I'm afraid we are living in the dark. And there will be people who get sick and require hospitalization, and tragically will die in the weeks and months ahead.”

— Jeremy Farrar, director, Wellcome

The world is also seeing access challenges to COVID-19 diagnostics and treatments, which Farrar said needs to be part of the global COVID-19 response.

“There is no solution to any infectious disease which does not include the critical contribution of the health systems, of diagnostics, and of treatment, and that is ever true of COVID-19,” he said.

Without diagnostics, he said the world is “blind to what is happening” or how the COVID-19 epidemic is developing without diagnostics.

“Without diagnostics, I'm afraid we are living in the dark. And there will be people who get sick and require hospitalization, and tragically will die in the weeks and months ahead,” he said, adding that “without treatments, we will not be able to save their lives.”

Farrar said the world needs to have a “multipronged approach” to the crisis, ensuring there is diagnostics, including genomic surveillance at the global level and the data shared equitably, as well as treatments, whether it is dexamethasone, oxygen, immune therapies or monoclonal antibodies.

“The end of this pandemic is clear, it is through science, and it's through the equitable access to that science,” he said.

About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.