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Until We Provide Access to Vaccines for the World, We’re Not Going to See an End to COVID-19

This article was created in partnership with WHOF.

This content was paid for by WHOF. The newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content.

“As long as we have large populations unvaccinated… the virus will evolve,” said WHO Foundation CEO Anil Soni, “Omicron will not be the last variant.”

The emergence of Omicron shows that COVID-19 is far from done. Worldwide, cases and deaths are climbing again, and the new highly mutated variant of concern has spread globally across 89 countries so far.

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The pandemic’s worrying trajectory could be a symptom of how the world has responded to the virus, particularly with regard to the uneven distribution of life-saving vaccines. Wealthy nations have placed themselves at the front of the queue for doses, with enough to cover their populations several times over, while low-income countries have been left with scraps. Now, about 46 percent of the world’s population has received two doses, but that figure is just three percent in low-income nations. African countries, where Omicron was first detected, are among the most disadvantaged.

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The stark disparity of access to vaccines has created fertile ground for new variants. “As long as we have large populations of people who are not vaccinated, the world is a Petri dish for the virus to evolve,” Soni told VICE World News. “If the virus can evolve, Omicron will not be the last variant.”

Vaccinating the world is a moral imperative and failing to do so leaves everyone on the planet in a precarious state. No end to the pandemic means no end to the disruption of daily life, and no end to the fear and deaths caused by COVID-19.

Confronted with what World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described as “scandalous” inequity, the UN agency set a target of vaccinating 70 percent of every country’s population by mid-2022 to end the acute phase of the pandemic. But 60 percent of countries are at risk of not reaching the target.

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It can be turned around, but the task is not without its challenges, said Soni. “The biggest challenge is how far behind we are. We need more vaccines. We need more political leadership. We need more funding. We need the promises of donated doses to be delivered. And we need more manufacturing and delivery of vaccines.”

Basic supply and demand is among the causes of the lack of vaccines. Putting money on the table would send a clear message to manufacturers that there is a demand for the 11 billion doses needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world by the middle of the year, said Soni. The necessary investment—billions of dollars—pales in comparison with the potential cost to global economies, which could run into the tens of trillions.

“You need an incredibly small amount of resources relative to the cost of this pandemic, to beat COVID-19,” he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That’s the global message.”

Despite what can feel like an immense challenge ahead, we must realize we all have the power to make a difference, and what can seem like minor acts may have the most significant impact. That is not to say people in wealthy countries turning down vaccine invitations can help free up supplies for those in need. Soni suggests thinking about the situation much in the same way as the inflight safety message: fit your own oxygen mask first, then help others.

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That message is among the founding principles of the WHO Foundation’s Go Give One campaign. Described as a fundraiser with no borders, it was launched in response to the growing global vaccine equity gap and aims to help protect millions around the world with people-powered vaccines. Put simply: each $5 donation buys one vaccine for someone. This vaccine is delivered by COVAX AMC, which was set up to ensure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for low- and middle-income countries.

“Individually giving a minimal amount translates to the most important number of all, which is one human life touched by yours,” said Soni.

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We all need to be part of this movement to overcome the existential threat of the pandemic. The aim is to get 50 million people engaged, which would mean at least 50 million lives touched, potentially saved. Beyond helping others, and ourselves, this kind of mass participation would send a loud and clear message to leaders of wealthy nations—those with the power to step up the global vaccine rollout. “That becomes a tidal wave that forces our elected representatives to do their part,” said Soni.

We need this year to look vastly different from the last, he adds, and the power to do so is in our hands. “2021 was a year in which some of us were freed from fear thanks to vaccines, and I’m grateful for that,” he said. “2022 needs to be the year in which we help ensure that everyone is freed from fear, and we end the pandemic. The way you can do that is by taking a few moments of your time to give a few dollars and to add your voice to an act of global solidarity to make sure everyone is vaccinated.”

Buy a vaccine for someone in need and bring the end of the pandemic closer by visiting gogiveone.org. Thanks to the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, every donation is matched—turning every $5 into $10—until March 2022. Double your impact today.

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This content was paid for by WHOF. The newsroom was not involved in the creation of this content.