Equitable COVID-19 vaccine access is a human right
As we enter year two of the COVID-19 pandemic, the development and approval of safe and highly effective COVID-19 vaccines exemplify the incredible power of collaborative, international, scientific innovation and are cause for optimism. It is now imperative that the global COVID-19 vaccination effort provide equitable access to those in need in all regions of the world.
The pandemic has exposed the harmful impact of social and economic inequities. Marginalized minority groups are often at increased risk of getting sick or dying from COVID-19. The disease burden has highlighted the urgent need to strengthen fragile health systems that are strained in normal times and are at the breaking point under the stress of a pandemic.
Vaccination is a proven tool to decrease preventable illness and death. It is a relatively simple intervention that has transformed human well-being through the control of ancient diseases such as yellow fever and polio, the mitigation of Ebola, and even the global eradication of smallpox. These victories resulted from unprecedented, target-driven, international cooperation with a goal of freeing people in every corner of the world from the scourge of terrible infectious diseases.
Yet, to date in the COVID-19 vaccination effort, we have not seen the same level of international collaboration. Instead, rich countries moved quickly to corner the vaccine supply, leaving poorer countries with little or no access to the most effective vaccines or support for their efforts to protect their populations. Unless this trend is reversed, it will result in what Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), calls a “catastrophic moral failure.”
FHI 360 calls on the international community to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee fair and equitable access for every country in the world, for all populations and sub-groups. The COVAX facility — co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and WHO — is essential to realizing this vision. We applaud the Biden administration for announcing its intent for the United States to participate in this coalition. Only with concerted global cooperation can we assure that the world does not face the unacceptable prospect of rich countries rolling out vaccination programs while people in lower- and middle-income countries continue to suffer from COVID-19. FHI 360 is committed to contributing to global COVID-19 vaccine implementation to avert the moral failure feared by Dr. Tedros.
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