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Why global vaccine access is the key to ending the COVID-19 pandemic


To ensure that the world responds effectively to COVID-19 and the challenges it has presented, world leaders, companies, and individuals need to come together in a single response effort — a global pandemic of this magnitude demands a global response.

Finding an effective vaccine is a key part of a global response plan. But that is only half the battle.

After an effective vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available, world leaders must come together to ensure there is equitable access to a vaccine. We must ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to the vaccine regardless of nationality or wealth, because just finding a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is not the exit strategy. Ensuring these vaccines reach everyone who needs them is.

Here’s a look at why equitable vaccine access is the key to ending the pandemic and how we can make sure it happens.

The risk of vaccine nationalism

In order to fight the pandemic, the world is putting billions into research and development funding, with the hope of fast-tracking a COVID-19 vaccine that is effective. But finding an effective vaccine isn’t enough to end this pandemic — access to it is.

Unless we beat this virus everywhere, we won’t beat it anywhere. It’s in everyone’s collective best interests to ensure that people across the whole world have access to a vaccine.

But, the world hasn’t dealt with a health crisis of this magnitude before, and delivering medicines and vaccines on such a large-scale, time-sensitive level has no precedent. Unfortunately, given the nature, magnitude, and urgency of COVID-19 and the current financial, technical, logistical, and political challenges, the world is at risk of vaccine nationalism. Vaccine nationalism is when “each nation prioritizes its own interests, inside its own borders, rather than cooperating and fighting against a pandemic that respects neither.” This means unequal access to the vaccine.

The world cannot afford for this to happen or we won’t end the pandemic.

The need for equitable vaccine access

“Such vaccine nationalism is not only unfair. It is self-defeating,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said at this year’s UN General Assembly. “None of us is safe until all of us are safe.”

When a vaccine becomes available, world leaders need to ensure that access to the vaccine is happening across the whole world — ensuring everyone has access to a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible at a price they can afford. This is the only way we can fully end the pandemic everywhere for everyone, in high, middle, and low-income countries.

Unequal access to a vaccine will have serious consequences. If a vaccine is distributed exclusively to high-income countries first, the world will only avoid 33% of COVID-19 related deaths.

But, if a vaccine is distributed to every country on the globe proportionally to its population rather than prioritizing high-income countries, the world could avoid 61% of COVID-19 related deaths. The world has already seen over 33 million cases of COVID-19 and more than one million deaths worldwide because of the virus — we can’t afford to have any more.

“This milestone is far more than a simple statistic,” ONE CEO and president Gayle Smith said. “It represents a million separate tragedies — a million lives cut short and a million families left to cope.”

These numbers don’t lie — the only way to end COVID-19 everywhere is to guarantee that everyone has equal access to a vaccine.

“People all over the world are united in grief, but despite our facing a shared enemy, our leaders are still dangerously slow to unite behind a plan to beat it,” Gayle continued. “Governments must do better, including by ensuring that vaccines and therapeutics are available to all and by countering the devastating impact of the pandemic on the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities.”

To ensure that this happens and that all global citizens receive the COVID-19 treatment they deserve, we’re launching our Vaccine Access Test. As world leaders speak up about vaccine equity and make deals for promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates, we want them to know we’re watching them and making sure they’re ensuring that everyone everywhere gets the vaccine they need.

The Vaccine Access Test

The Vaccine Access Test provides a framework to answer the question of whether or not the actions taken by world leaders and players are moving us closer to — or further from — an equitable outcome for the COVID-19 pandemic.

The test can be used in two ways. The first way is to assess deals for vaccine candidates (like a contract between a pharmaceutical company and country). This answers the question — is any one country monopolizing the global supply of a vaccine candidate at the expense of vulnerable people in other places?

The second way the Vaccine Access Test can be used is to assess actors on their leadership — how well a country or company demonstrates leadership on equitable vaccine access through policies, transparency, and financial support to global initiatives.

Each of these assessments is based on a variety of metrics to give each deal and form of leadership a vaccine access score. The scores can stand on their own to serve as a public snapshot of how well or poorly individual deals and actors are either advancing or setting back equitable access to a vaccine, because right now, the world needs it more than ever.

The goal of our test is to ensure that in the long run, every person everywhere has access to an affordable COVID-19 vaccine to end the pandemic — it’s the only way. Companies and world leaders must know that we are watching them to ensure that this happens. Pandemics know no borders or timelines, and none of us is safe until every single one of us is safe.

Learn more about our Vaccine Access Test and its methodology here, and see how countries and companies are scoring

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