In a White House speech addressing the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, President Biden yesterday reiterated several times the need to vaccinate the world to beat the pandemic. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) applauds the President for emphasizing the need for a united global response to the pandemic and his call for other nations to step up vaccine sharing.
“President Biden made it entirely clear that sharing excess vaccine doses is as much a matter of national security as it is a moral obligation. No nation exists in a vacuum, and those in a position to help their neighbors must do so. That is our only shot at stopping the proliferation of new and potentially more lethal variants,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “Our allies in Western Europe are sitting on vaccine stockpiles so large they expire and end up getting flushed down the drain. Meanwhile, in Africa, only 11% of people have had a chance to get vaccinated – this is an entirely preventable humanitarian disaster. Unless we fully commit to vaccinating our world as one global community, the pandemic will drag on, claiming millions more lives and taxing the economies, growth and stability of all countries for years to come.”
To date, the US has pledged to share over 1.1 billion vaccine doses before 2023. So far, over 245 million doses have been delivered to recipient countries and another 26 million are en route. The remaining US vaccine stock is estimated to be 625 million doses. By contrast, the European Union has a remaining stock of 1.3 billion and has only pledged to share 500 million doses, of which 100 million have been shipped but not yet delivered to recipient countries. In both instances, the US and EU have so far purchased vaccine quantities far in excess of what is needed, 278% and 340% of their populations, respectively.
Within days of Omicron’s discovery, it has already been detected in 19 countries, including many EU countries, which shows that with current limited genomic sequencing and epidemiological surveillance capacity around the world, quarantines and travel restrictions do a poor job of preventing the spread of new variants. At this point, our best strategy, as well as a moral duty, is to ensure that we vaccinate our world so that as many people are protected from COVID-19 as possible, lest we give the virus free rein to mutate uncontrollably and run the risk of developing vaccine-resistant strains.
AHF launched an international “Vaccinate Our World” campaign in April 2021 to promote global vaccine access and equity, read more about it at www.vaccinateourworld.org.