A Discussion on Immediate COVID-19 Vaccine Global Scale Up
Access to effective COVID-19 vaccines has been largely limited to higher-income countries, and current trends and plans for global vaccine distribution and use will do far too little to address the global gaps and have impact on the pandemic. These inequities are a concern on many levels, not the least of which is that delayed vaccination and continuous spread increases the risk of mutations, challenging the efficacy of existing tools. The health and well-being of billions of people in much of the world with limited and insufficient vaccine access remain at heightened risk from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as do their livelihoods and future prospects due to the widespread social and economic impacts of the pandemic. The health, security and economies of the richer world also will remain threatened as long as the pandemic rages elsewhere.
The core premise of the two-day virtual meeting on June 30–July 1, 2021 was that making vaccines available to everyone worldwide as quickly as possible is the only way to minimize the worst short- and longer-term effects of this pandemic. The ethical and public health imperatives are even stronger now that a far more transmissible virus variant is spreading and others that may have equally or even more virulent features are likely to emerge. The consequences of failing to act rapidly and forcefully to close gaps in vaccine access could include millions of additional deaths and deeper and longer-lasting social and economic distress – all of which is avoidable, since the development of effective vaccines means that proven tools are available to blunt such impacts.
The event organized by the Yale Institute for Global Health (YIGH) along with several partners focused on identifying strategies and approaches to forestall these possibilities. It brought together individuals from academia, civil society, multilateral agencies, and philanthropic institutions from the United States (US) and other countries to consider how to jumpstart rapid production of vaccines to ensure that enough doses are available to dramatically increase protection from COVID-19 around the world to reach 50%–70% of the world’s population by the end of 2021.