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Joint statement: Uniting for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19

03 juin 2020

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A doctor examines a young patient at the Abdulqaway health centre in Aden city, Yemen, 18 March 2020. Credit: OCHA/Ayman Fuad

(New York/Geneva, 3 June 2020) The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement call for unity to scale up efforts to develop, test, and scale-up production of safe, effective, quality, affordable diagnostics, therapeutics, medicines and vaccines.

Specifically, we ask governments, the private sector, international organizations and civil society to unite towards “a people’s vaccine”.

COVID-19 is a global disease affecting people around the world but with a disproportionately higher impact on vulnerable groups and individuals. As the race to identify the most effective tools to combat this virus continues with steady pace, the spirit of global solidarity must prevail: no one should be left behind.

A people’s vaccine should protect the affluent in cities and the poor in rural communities, the old in care homes and the young in refugee camps.  A global social contract for a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 is a moral imperative that brings us all together in our shared humanity.

The unity and commitment towards a people’s vaccine against COVID-19 should be accompanied by equal global collaboration and resolve to sustain immunization against preventable diseases.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic routine childhood immunization services have been severely hit in at least 68 countries; measles campaigns have been suspended in 27 countries; and polio campaigns put on hold in 38 countries. As a result, at least 80 million children under the age of one are at risk of diseases like measles, diphtheria and polio.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement call on international and national partners to continue prioritizing delivery of vaccines as a key tool to avert excess mortality, particularly in low income countries and in humanitarian settings.  

While the world invests in the development of new technologies against COVID-19 and in sustaining the provision of immunization services worldwide, we warn that biomedical interventions will only be partially effective without people’s engagement and ownership of the response to the pandemic. We learned the tough consequences of non-prioritizing communities in the early phase of previous epidemics, like Ebola in DRC, and we should not repeat the same mistake.

We therefore call for governments and non-government actors to prioritize investments in communities and to ensure all people, without distinctions, are provided with the relevant knowledge, resources and tools to protect themselves from COVID-19. Until a people’s vaccine becomes available, any hope of reducing the impact of this pandemic will primarily rest on the people’s knowledge and behaviour and in their ability to withstand the direct and secondary impacts of COVID-19.