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Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on PRI’s The World: Wealthy countries must not monopolize the COVID-19 vaccine

According to the latest data provided by Bloomberg’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, 6.44 million doses of the vaccine are being administered daily around the world. However, the same data shows that the vast majority are being administered in wealthier countries.

Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently spoke with Marco Werman, host of Public Radio International’s (PRI) The World, about her concerns that the vaccine is being rolled out too slowly in less wealthy countries, particularly those in Africa.

Madam Sirleaf, who serves as Co-Chair of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, said that there was an urgent need for global leaders to act quickly to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. On current roll-out plans, she added, shots may not be widely available in Africa until 2022 or 2023.

Noting the interdependent and interconnected nature of all countries, Madam Sirleaf said that vaccines should be treated as a global good to keep humanity safe, and warned against their monopolization by wealthier countries:

 “If not protect the entire world population, COVID-19 is going to continue and will, perhaps, become even more deadly. They will not be able to stop the spread of this disease if they do not also secure for all the countries of the world.”

Some positive action has been taken, with more countries committing to fund the COVAX program—a pandemic response effort coordinated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the WHO to ensure equitable access to vaccines globally. However, Madam Sirleaf remained concerned about persistent inequities in the vaccine rollout and urged wealthier countries to treat the vaccine as a public good:

are ensuring that their citizens get vaccinated first…Will it take until 2022 or 2023? We hope not. Just remember, we want the world to remember that the vaccine has to be a public good.”

You can read more and listen to the full interview here.

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