NEW YORK—As concern escalates over the threat of the Omicron COVID-19 variant spreading, a group of the world’s leading philanthropies have joined together to call on G7 countries and multinational pharmaceutical companies to urgently lift their restrictions on vaccine supply.
The Global Alliance of Foundations calls on G7 countries under U.K. and incoming German leadership to make good on earlier commitments and aim even higher to ensure that countries in the Global South have the means to buy, administer, and quickly produce their own vaccines.
We also urge countries to refrain from imposing unreasonable travel bans that penalize countries that shared early warnings about this new variant in the name of global health security.
This new variant comes as the world is failing to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40 percent of every country’s population by the end of 2021. Less than 7 percent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, and the global death toll has exceeded five million and continues to climb.
The longer the world takes to deliver vaccine equity, the more we allow COVID-19 to mutate and become more dangerous. This new variant demonstrates that vaccine nationalism is a short-sighted approach that is self-defeating and puts us all at risk. It reinforces the reality, once again, that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
While the world awaits more information on whether existing vaccines will be effective against the new variant, we will no doubt see additional pressure on vaccine supplies. Global leaders must do everything in their power to accelerate sharing of intellectual property and technology transfer to allow additional manufacturers to reproduce COVID-19 vaccines in low- and middle-income countries.
Along with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, and COVAX, we call for countries with excess doses to stop hoarding and donate those supplies now, and to continue to donate future excesses in real time. Donations to COVAX, AVAT, and African countries must be made in a way that allows their governments to mobilize their resources in support of equitable distribution and enables both short- and long-term planning.
COVID-19 is not a one-off emergency. This variant will be followed by others, and by new pandemics. This brings home the need for structural global pandemic preparedness and response; effective surveillance and global early warning systems for emerging diseases and new variants; an upscale in local systems’ delivery capacity; medicines manufacturing capacity taken out of the hands of the few and expanded to each continent; global responses based on solidarity, equity, and the understanding of mutual interest; and adequate financing to support all countries in effective response.
We must do better. If we are to address collective global crises, whether COVID, climate, or economic recovery, we need ambitious and urgent reform of the multilateral architecture, including an emphasis on strengthening localized capacity and resilience to deliver a just, green, and inclusive recovery.
James Holt, Executive Director, Archewell Foundation
Kate Hampton, CEO, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation
Peter Laugharn, President, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation
Boichoko Ditlhake, Head, Civil Society Support, Kagiso Trust
Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation
Mark Malloch-Brown, President, Open Society Foundations
Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President, The Rockefeller Foundation