Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have joined the World Health Organization and Save the Children in an appeal to G20 leaders meeting to honour promises to get COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries where just 3% of people have had a jab.
In a two-page letter, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Save the Children International CEO Inger Ashing and other leading voices in global health called for the world’s wealthiest countries to accelerate long-promised donations of vaccines and break the hold pharmaceutical companies have over access to vaccines.
“Among countries represented at the G20, there are a handful with millions of surplus vaccines that are destined to be wasted once they expire,” the letter said.
“Every discarded dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, when there are the mechanisms to donate them, should outrage us all. Each dose represents a real person—a mother, father, daughter, or son—who could have been protected.”
They pointed out that seven billon doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally but Covax, the initiative designed to help fair achieve global access to vaccines, had only received 11.5% of the promised 1.3 billion doses.
Global targets have been set to vaccinate 40% of the population of every country by the end of 2021 and 70% by the mid-2022 and decisions made at the G20 leaders’ summit in Rome this weekend could make or break those targets.
“By delivering already-pledged doses, helping countries manufacture their own vaccines, and prioritizing vaccines for nations in need, the G20 can help ensure the world delivers on these promises,” said the letter that was also signed by the Vaccine Alliance, UNAIDS, Clinton Foundation and Global Citizen.
“We can’t simply hope for the pandemic to end on its own. As the virus progresses through unvaccinated populations, we risk new and more deadly strains sweeping the planet.”