World leaders urged to say 'never again' to vaccine inequity
While a number of Covid-19 vaccines were produced at a breakneck speed, affluent nations quickly snapped up the majority of the initial doses.
Three years after the Covid pandemic began, nearly 200 prominent world figures asked for the vaccine inequity seen during the crisis to be relegated to history.
"We ask world leaders to pledge 'never again'," the current and former dignitaries stated in an open letter.
The letter was released to commemorate the three-year anniversary of the World Health Organization's classification of the Covid-19 problem as a pandemic.
The letter, sponsored by the non-governmental organization coalition People's Vaccine Alliance, was signed by Timor-Leste President José Manuel Ramos-Horta, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996, as well as former leaders from more than 40 countries.
Numerous other Nobel laureates, religious leaders, and former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon were among those who signed, as did a number of current and previous UN agency heads.
With the end of the pandemic in sight, "the world is at a critical juncture," the letter added.
"Decisions made now will determine how the world prepares for and responds to future global health crises. World leaders must reflect on mistakes made in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic so that they are never repeated," the leaders wrote.
The letter criticized the glaring unfairness that characterized the pandemic response, which has officially killed almost seven million people globally, though the exact toll is thought to be much higher.
The big picture
While a number of Covid-19 vaccines were produced at breakneck speed, affluent nations quickly snapped up the majority of the initial doses, leaving vulnerable individuals in many poorer countries waiting in vain for vaccinations.
According to UN data, less than a third of people in low-income countries have received at least one vaccination shot, while three-quarters of people in high-income nations have.
The letter cited research published in the science journal Nature last year that estimated that 1.3 million fewer people would have died from Covid if the vaccines had been delivered evenly in 2021, amounting to "one preventable death every 24 seconds" that year.
The letter asked leaders to support the ongoing international discussions for a pandemic agreement -- in order to guarantee that equity is a core aspect of the final accord.
It also urged for large-scale investments in the global south to foster scientific innovation and manufacturing capability, ensuring that vaccinations and treatments can be produced and implemented swiftly in all regions.
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