Inequity in access to COVID-19 medical countermeasures continues to be the bane of the global response to this pandemic. Global solidarity and multilateralism have faltered. Instead of a global response to a global pandemic, the world saw the rise of vicious nationalism and greed as rich countries put their self-interests first.
Through collective efforts late into this active pandemic, there is an opportunity to repair the broken global solidarity, restore hope in multilateralism, accelerate efforts towards achieving the WHO target of 70% COVID-19 vaccine coverage, and close the vaccine equity gap. Efforts by Gavi, the WHO, and others to bridge inequity gaps are paying off.
The recent news that 92 lower-income countries, receiving donor-funded jabs, have reached 50% COVID vaccine coverage on average is welcome news. It points to what is possible when the world pulls together to solve global challenges. This is an increase of nearly 19% since the beginning of the year. This presents the opportunity to learn the factors and strategies that are behind this remarkable success beyond the successful prioritization of vaccination of health workers by the respective governments.
Even as we celebrate this huge milestone toward the WHO COVID-19 vaccination target, we must not forget the devastating effects caused by the pandemic on the global and local economies and the severe harm to the critical pillars of society, including the provision of education and primary healthcare, and community activities that are key for physical and mental health.
Many of the world’s low-income countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa and with the pandemic having caused the first recession of its kind in 25 years, the focus needs to be on integrating COVID-19 vaccine delivery with strategies aimed at addressing broader and relevant health challenges on the continent. We must sustain the zeal in mobilizing partners in scaling up efforts to overcome hurdles, improve coordination, and speed up vaccination drives in poorer countries to ensure vaccinations are timely as we try to recover the lost ground on achieving health for all.
This pandemic has exposed the limitations of many health systems and brought to the fore the need to ensure the resilience of health systems during a pandemic. To learn the lessons of the COVID crisis and achieve global health security, the international community need to support lower-income countries to strengthen preparedness and response capacities to deal with future health threats.
This significant achievement by the global vaccine alliance, the different member states, and other actors in bridging the vaccine equity gap is a positive reminder of the power of collaboration and coordination in confronting such global challenges. Now is not the time to pull back, but rather sustain the commitment and the collaboration required to achieve for all.
Nahashon Aluoka, Regional Adviser, Africa, Pandemic Action Network ([email protected])
Anthony Ombara, Advocacy Manager, Amref-Gavi CSOs Constituency ([email protected])