The development and approval of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines less than a year after the start of the pandemic is a truly remarkable achievement, offering hope that the end of this devastating crisis may be in sight. What will follow in the coming months—or even weeks—will be equally remarkable: COVID-19 vaccines will be made available to people around the world—not just in the wealthiest countries—at roughly the same time.
Vaccines will reach the majority of rich-country citizens in the first quarter of this year, and citizens of low- and lower-middle-income countries will also begin to access them. The speed and scale at which vaccines are being provided is both extraordinary and necessary to end the pandemic, and is possible only thanks to an unprecedented show of global solidarity and multilateral support for COVAX, the central mechanism in the global COVID-19 vaccination effort, launched last year by the World Health Organization and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (which I led).
COVAX will facilitate the rollout of two billion vaccine doses over the next year, reaching people in 190 participating countries and economies, regardless of their ability to pay. In fact, there should be enough doses to protect all health- and social-care workers worldwide by mid-2021. And despite meeting with its share of naysayers, the program has continued to attract more governments, economic policymakers, and vaccine manufacturers. These participants are signing on because they recognize that COVAX is the only viable global solution to the COVID-19 crisis.
Now that we have reached this critical juncture, speculation about whether COVAX will fail must stop. It is time to start providing the support needed to ensure that it succeeds in doing what it was designed to do. The development and approval of vaccines is merely the first step. As long as the coronavirus can be transmitted between people, many will continue to be infected, and some will die. The hope of returning to normal trade, commerce, and travel will remain elusive.
Read the full article about COVID-19 vaccine by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at Brookings.
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