Asset managers call for ‘fair and equitable’ global efforts to end pandemic

'We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere', says WHO director-general as he welcomes investor initiative

Some 148 asset management houses have signed a statement supporting a “fair and equitable” global response to Covid-19 amid concerns there is uneven access around the world to vaccines and medical oxygen.

Schroders, Fidelity, Aviva Investors, AXA Investment Managers, Jupiter, BMO Global Asset Management, Nordea, NN Investment Partners, Rathbone Greenbank Investments, Robeco, M&G, Insight, Columbia Threadneedle, Aegon Asset Management, Man Group and Candriam are among the signatories representing $14trn in assets under management of advice that said they are concerned about the “negative impact that limited funding” for low- and middle-income countries is having.

The investment groups called for a “fair and equitable global response to the pandemic”, pledged to support the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator partnership, which is dedicated to developing, producing and ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 tools.

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The signatories have also committed to playing their own part through working with the Access to Medicine Foundation to engage with healthcare companies, and “recommend that governments and international organisations explore the feasibility of innovative finance mechanisms for national and global Covid-19 responses”.

Damiano de Felice, director of strategy of the Access to Medicine Foundation, commented: “We have coordinated this initiative because institutional investors can contribute unique capabilities to the global efforts to end the current pandemic.

“On the equity side, they can speak directly to the senior management of their investee healthcare companies and ensure that essential Covid-19 tools are developed as rapidly and distributed as widely as possible.

“On the credit side, they can deploy billions of dollars to support the global economic recovery through innovative finance mechanisms that fund public and private programmes dedicated to pandemic response and preparedness.”

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Economic losses

Of the 128 million Covid-19 vaccine doses administered so far, the statement highlighted, more than three quarters have been administered in just 10 countries that account for 60% of global GDP. Meanwhile, a further 130 countries, home to 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose.

“If Covid-19 tools are not distributed fairly and the virus continues to spread in low- and middle-income countries, the additional impacts could be considerable: nearly twice as many deaths and $9.2trn in global economic losses,” the statement said.

It added one study puts the economic benefit of global access to Covid-19 vaccines at $466bn by 2025 for 10 major economies alone. This is more than 12 times the estimated total cost of the ACT Accelerator.

Specifically, the ACT Accelerator is targeting the acceleration of the development and production of ways to fight Covid-19 – such as vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, medical oxygen, and personal protective equipment (PPE) – and ensuring they reach people in all countries in the world.

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Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, World Health Organisation (WHO), welcomed the support for the ACT Accelerator from the investor community, which he said sends a strong message that “vaccine equity is not only a moral but also an economic imperative”.

“We will not end the pandemic anywhere until we end it everywhere. 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. I thank the Access to Medicine Foundation for adding its voice to the chorus demanding vaccine equity.”

Philippe Duneton, executive director at UNITAID and co-lead of the ACT Accelerator’s Therapeutics pillar, said it is “very positive to see that the investment community acknowledges the importance of expanding access to the full set of tools to fight the current pandemic, including treatments, diagnostics and medical oxygen”. He also noted the challenges posed by the emergence of new virus variants, and added: “It has never been more important to ensure these tools are available for everyone, everywhere. This is crucial to enhance disease control and hopefully decrease severe illness in the coming year.”

Fiona Reynolds, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), said: “Covid-19 has presented the world with one of the most significant socio-economic shocks in decades. Though the roll-out of vaccines is bringing us hope of a brighter future, there is still a long way to go and significant risks – both financial and physical – associated with new virus strains and uneven access to vaccines and other critical COVID-19 tools.

“Global institutional investors have a key role to play in protecting vulnerable populations and setting the stage for just and sustainable recovery. As the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has made clear: ‘affordable, non-discriminatory access to the vaccine is a human right.’ This is why, today, I welcome the statement signed by nearly 150 institutional investors and coordinated by the Access to Medicine Foundation, calling for an effective, fair and equitable global response to Covid-19, including support for the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.”

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Action points

The three actions set out by the signatories to mitigate risks posed by new virus strains and by the funding shortfalls and production gaps that prevent billions of people from receiving Covid-19 tools are listed below in detail:

1) Finance the ACT Accelerator in full: The signatories encourage world leaders in the G7, G20 and ACT Accelerator Facilitation Council to finance the ACT Accelerator in full and deploy adequate funding to ensure fair and equitable access to Covid-19 tools globally.

2) Stimulate investee companies to do more: The signatories also pledge to work with the Access to Medicine Foundation and engage with investee healthcare companies to support the ACT Accelerator, for example through cross-industry partnerships to accelerate R&D and expand production, equitable pricing strategies, and voluntary licensing agreements.

3) Explore innovative finance mechanisms: The third action is for governments and international organisations. They are called on 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 programmes.

The full list of signatories can be viewed here. It is still open to institutional investors not yet signed up that wish to do so.


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...