The global reach of COVID-19 vaccinations has been unbalanced, with many low-income countries suffering from unequal access to vaccines and a slow rollout. The consequences of vaccine inequity can overturn the gains already made in the fight against the pandemic, warned former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at a recent event.
At the High-Level Thematic Debate entitled ‘Galvanizing Momentum for Universal Vaccination,’ Madam Sirleaf urged the international community to help low-income countries increase their vaccination rates and reach the target of 70% global coverage by mid-2022. She called on all nations to pool their resources to allow vaccine equity to prevail:
“This year, low-income countries must receive the support required to turn vaccines in vials into vaccinations in arms. This happens when countries are fully involved in the planning and timing of vaccine delivery.”
Madam Sirleaf, who co-chaired the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR), was adamant that the production and distribution of vaccines should be conducted with equity and fairness, allowing all countries—regardless of their level of income—to benefit.
She also hailed the progress made in creating regional hubs for vaccine production as suggested by the Independent Panel:
“The COVID mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub in South Africa is making strides. Just last week, we heard about exciting plans to expand production in six countries on the African continent. This presents a huge potential for mRNA vaccines, and much more.”
Madam Sirleaf’s address to the meeting, which was convened by the President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly H.E. Abdulla Shahid, also included a plea to donor countries to pay their fair share to the COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A)—a global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
She also urged low-income countries to “get fully involved in designing COVID vaccine rollout,” and civil society to continue advocating for global pandemic preparedness reforms.
Watch the full debate here.