United Nations Approves Second COVID-19 Resolution; Stresses Global Collaboration On R&D, Medicines and Equipment Access
United Nations General Assembly hall in New York City

The UN General Assembly approved a resolution Monday night calling for accelerated scientific cooperation and global coordination to hasten the “rapid development, manufacturing and distribution of diagnostics, anti-viral medicines, personal protective equipment and vaccines” needed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The resolution, approved in a virtual poll, also called on countries “to immediately take steps to prevent … speculation and undue stockpiling that may hinder access to safe, effective and affordable essential medicines, vaccines, personal protective equipment and medical equipment.”

Drafted by Mexico and co-sponsored by about 170 countries, the Resolution mandates UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work with the World Health Organization “to identify and recommend options” to ensure timely and equitable access to testing, medical supplies, drugs and future coronavirus vaccines for all in need, especially in developing countries.

The resolution was welcomed by a cross-section of bio-pharma and medical technology industry associations, which banded together to highlight their support for more international collaboration, including between public and private sectors, in the quest for treatments.

“Our organizations believe that coordinated, inclusive, and multi-stakeholder action is the only possible solution to mitigate the impact of this unprecedented global health emergency,” said the statement by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), the International Council of Biotechnology Associations (ICBA), the Global Medical Technology Alliance (GMTA), the Global Diagnostic Imaging, Healthcare IT & Radiation Therapy Trade Association (DITTA), and the Global Self-Care Federation (GSCF).

“COVID-19 is teaching us a crucial lesson: facing any global health challenge, in particular one of such unprecedented scale, requires solidarity, truly inclusive cooperation and even closer
efforts to ensuring health systems’ resiliency. As this Resolution calls for United Nations -wide coordinated efforts, we believe that priority should be placed on critical aspects, including
strengthening the global supply chain to support continuity, ensuring effective surveillance mechanisms, fostering strong and adaptable resource capacity within health systems, and
promoting the establishment of procedures for fast evaluation and approval of new health technologies.”

However one civil society group, which has advocated for removing all patent barriers that might hinder broadbased access to COVID-19 therapies, was not as enthusiastic. “The New York UN resolution avoided the elephant in the room, the issue of IP on tests, drugs and vaccines,”  James Love, head of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), told Health Policy Watch.

The resolution also reaffirms the fundamental role of the United Nations system in coordinating the global response to control and contain the spread of COVID-19 and in supporting the 193 U.N. member states, “and in this regard acknowledges the crucial leading role played by the World Health Organization.”

Notably the United States did not block adoption of the text, despite the fact that U.S. President Donald Trump suspended funding to the World Health Organization earlier this month. He accusing WHO of being “China-centric” in its response to the virus, failing to alert member states about potential human-to-human transmission early enough, and opposing travel restrictions – w which were later widely adopted by countries anyway as the outbreak spiraled into a pandemic.

The vote over the resolution was held remotely since the General Assembly is not holding meetings during the pandemic. Under the rules instituted, the draft resolution is circulated to member states and if any single state rejects the resolution, it is not adopted.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande announced the approval of the resolution in a letter to the 193 U.N. member states Monday night saying there were no objections to the resolution.

The resolution is the second on COVID-19 approved by the General Assembly.

On April 2, the world body approved a resolution on Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease recognizing “the unprecedented effects” of the pandemic and calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” the virus.

Image Credits: Patrick Gruban.