GENEVA, Switzerland, June 3, 2020/ — The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement call for unity to scale up efforts to develop, test, and scale-up production of safe, effective, quality, affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines. Specifically, we ask governments, the private sector, international organizations and civil society to unite towards “a people’s vaccine”.
COVID1-9 is a global disease affecting all people around the world but with a disproportionate higher impact on most vulnerable groups and individuals. As the race to identify the most effective tools to combat this virus continues with steady pace, the spirit of global solidarity must prevail: no one should be left behind. A people’s vaccine should protect the affluent in cities as the poor in rural communities, the old in care homes as the young in refugee camps. A global social contract for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 is a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity.
The unity and commitment towards a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 should be accompanied by equal global collaboration and resolve to sustain immunization against preventable diseases. Due to COVID-19 routine childhood immunization services have been severely hit in at least 68 countries; measles campaigns have been suspended in 27 countries and polio campaigns put on hold in 38 countries. As a result, at least 80 million children under one are at risk for diseases like measles, diphtheria and polio. The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement call on international and national partners to continue prioritizing delivery of vaccines as a key tool to avert excess mortality, particularly in low income countries and in humanitarian settings.
While the world invests in the development of new technologies against COVID-19 and in sustaining the provision of immunization services worldwide, we warn that biomedical interventions will only be partially effective without people’s engagement and ownership of the response to the pandemic. We learned the tough consequences of non-prioritizing communities in the early phase of previous epidemics, like Ebola in DRC, and we should not repeat the same mistake. We therefore call for governments and non-government actors to prioritize investments in communities and to ensure all people, without distinctions, are provided with the relevant knowledge, resources and tools to protect themselves from COVID-19. Because until a people’s vaccine will become available, the hope to reduce the impact of this pandemic will primarily rest on the people’s knowledge and behaviour and in their ability to withstand the direct and secondary impact of COVID-19.