In January 2020, scientists communicated with the world the existence of a new virus — COVID-19. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, as it took COVID-19 only two months to cross borders and to make one single truth loud and clear: the winning strategy to defeat this virus is multilateralism.
We, the young generations, believe that international cooperation is the only answer we have to defeat this pandemic once and for all. On average, it takes seven years for low-income countries to get access to new vaccines and medications, and time is a privilege that the world cannot afford right now.
This is why ONE’s Youth Ambassadors from Italy decided to get out there and make some members of the parliament hear our voices and answer some important questions — Why is it so important to talk about global health when we are still struggling with COVID-19 in Italy? And why is it crucial to ensure equitable vaccine access to all? This is what YA Alice Zanin had to say.
As an activist, why is it important for you to speak about global health?
It is clear that we all live in a very interconnected and globalised world. Italy was one of the first countries to experience the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Today, this virus has reached pretty much every remote area on the globe, impacting the lives of everyone, wealthy or poor. Now, effective vaccines are available, although they are not yet everywhere or available to everyone.
However, COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine rollouts have been surrounded by fear and misinformation about what goes into them, international allocation, price, and effects. Therefore, as an Italian Youth Ambassador, it is vital to speak about global health, to engage with doctors, scientists, and researchers to get the right information and share it, raising public awareness in entire communities and helping save lives.
Why do you think that equitable access to vaccines should be guaranteed to all?
We have witnessed that no country, despite its geographic position, can behave as a perfect island, being perfectly isolated and eventually immune to COVID-19. Every country on this Earth is deeply tangled and interconnected, which means that nobody is or will be completely safe from the negative impacts of the pandemic and the variants of the virus if the entire globe is not protected by the threat imposed by COVID-19.
Moreover, guaranteeing equitable access to vaccines is vital from an economic point of view. A prolonged pandemic is likely to cost the global economy up to $9.2 trillion. But sharing vaccines internationally can show how powerful the means for cooperation for development can be and how urgently they need to be used. But those means should not merely be used as a way to respond to the economic crisis and health emergency COVID has imposed, but must be a long-term plan of long-establishing relationships between nations.
Lastly, the fastest way to put an end to the pandemic is to make vaccines available to everyone, everywhere, at a fair price. This virus thrives on inequality: without equitable global access to vaccines, this pandemic will last longer and be twice as deadly. Where people live should not determine whether they live.
Why is it important for you that your representatives hear your voice on these matters?
Young people must take an interest in global health justice, and help find ways to achieve it. It’s important to influence local politicians and show them the engagement and passion that we put into ensuring that everyone, both within our country and anywhere in the world, has access to vaccines, adequate health systems, and, consequently, greater opportunities to lead a healthy and dignified life. It is essential that our representatives know that we are committed and prepared to change the injustices we are witnessing, nationally and globally.
My fellow Youth Ambassadors and I, as well as many other young people in Italy and elsewhere, are committed to changing the minds of politicians and adults, who often think younger generations do not care to learn or cannot be passionate about politics and international matters. Especially today, young people are making a difference and are deeply committed to helping solve global urgent issues because our own future is at stake.
What lessons did you learn from speaking with your representatives in Parliament?
After speaking with my national representatives in Parliament, I now understand that have understood there is no reason to be afraid to talk with politicians when you genuinely and deeply believe in what you want them to listen to. Besides, we Youth Ambassadors as receive a thorough preparation before speaking with MPs. Therefore, there were almost no questions asked by the politicians that could scare me or put me in a position where I could not answer. However, there can always be unexpected events during political meetings, but I learned how to properly react to those situations without panicking or stressing out too much.
Lastly, I noticed that members of Parliament usually seem surprised to see how many young (f)activists there are in Italy and the world, who are passionate about global health and issues and want to make a difference for their future.