WHO COVID declaration


Release date: 5 May 2023

Responding to the WHO’s declaration that the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern is over, Dr Mohga Kamal-Yanni, Policy co-lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:

“COVID-19 may no longer be classified as the highest level of international emergency, but the virus has not gone away. There are billions of people in developing countries who still cannot access affordable COVID-19 tests and treatments. They need action from governments to remove the intellectual property barriers that prevent the widespread production of generic medicines.

“Rich countries behaved shamefully in this pandemic, upholding pharmaceutical monopolies and grabbing vaccines, tests and medicines for their people, pushing developing countries to the back in the line. And pharmaceutical companies are the biggest winners, achieving the biggest profit from a single medical product in history, while people died without access.

“The institutions set up to support developing countries, like COVAX and ACT-A, failed to involve developing countries in their creation or decision-making, and failed to deliver an equitable response. For future pandemics, preparation and response must be led by the Global South, instead of creating more global platforms dominated by donors.

“People in developing countries should never again wait for the ‘good will’ of rich countries, nor charitable actions of pharmaceutical companies. The world needs transformative commitments in the Pandemic Treaty and International Health Regulations to ensure knowledge and technology are shared, remove intellectual property barriers, and to support medical research and manufacturing in developing countries.

“Just as with HIV, the global response to COVID-19 failed the world’s most vulnerable, prioritising windfall profits ahead of public health. World leaders must now learn from the last three years, and make structural changes in global health. Or else, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of this pandemic in the next.”


Notes for editors

This is a reaction to the news that the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has declared an end to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency of International Concern: https://www.who.int/director-general/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing—5-may-2023

In his remarks, Dr Tedros said that “the pandemic has laid bare the searing inequalities of our world, with the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest hit, and the last to receive access to vaccines and other tools.”

In March, to mark three years since the WHO first characterised COVID-19 as a pandemic, more than 200 current and former world leaders, Nobel laureates, civil society organisations, faith leaders, and health experts have united to call on governments to “never again” allow “profiteering and nationalism” to come before the needs of humanity in a pandemic. They called for governments to support a Pandemic Treaty that removes intellectual property barriers and ensures technology is shared with developing countries: https://peoplesmedicines.org/resources/media-releases/world-leaders-say-never-again-to-vaccine-inequity/

An estimated 1.3 million fewer people would have died if COVID-19 vaccines were distributed equitably in 2021, according to a study published in Nature (Moore et al, 2022). This is equivalent to one preventable COVID-19 death every 24 seconds: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-022-02064-y

Media contact
Joe Karp-Sawey, Senior Media Advisor at The People’s Vaccine Alliance
Email: [email protected]