The letter said that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed profound disparities in the global health research landscape. Of the nearly eight billion USD allocated in 2020 and 2021 to COVID-19 research and development funding, only 5.5% (434 million USD) was granted to support research based in low- and middle-income countries. Even when research was conducted in low-resource settings, research institutions in high-income countries predominantly led the studies, with institutions in low-resource settings mainly serving as project sites, it said.
To achieve an effective and equitable pandemic response, the authors note that rapid and flexible funding is critical.
Jennyfer Ambe of the Global Health Security Agenda Consortium, and co-Chair of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition’s Ethics Working Group, said: “Making small amounts of money available rapidly is more useful than promising large amounts that arrive slowly or not at all.
“Despite the rhetoric around equity in pandemic response, the sad reality is that essential funding continues to be unavailable to researchers in low-resource settings. We need to stop perpetuating this cycle and truly invest in empowering researchers in low-resource settings to develop locally led emergency responses.”
Professor Sir Nick White, Chair of the COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition’s Steering Committee, said: “Epidemic and pandemic preparedness does not happen overnight. In these relatively calmer, interpandemic periods we need to invest in research capacities in low-resource settings, and we should address major obstacles which prevent urgently needed research such as slow regulatory and ethical approvals.”
The COVID-19 Clinical Research Coalition was formed in direct response to the glaring inequities in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This Coalition, which comprises more than 900 institutions and individuals based in 98 countries, has emerged as a powerful advocate for a just and equity-centred response to epidemics and pandemics, driven by the needs of low-resource settings. The Coalition is now renamed as the Coalition for Equitable Research in Low Resource Settings (CERCLE) and is expanding its scope beyond COVID-19 to tackle obstacles impeding equitable research in these settings.
Read the full research letter.
*Note: Research letters published in the Correspondence section of The Lancet include research findings and are externally peer-reviewed. Unlike Articles containing original data, research letters are shorter and the research they contain is usually preliminary, exploratory, or reporting on early findings.