okonjoiweala16_Stefano GuidiGetty Images_covid vaccine Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Globalizing the COVID Vaccine

In less than a year, the world has come together to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines and a multilateral platform for allocating them most efficiently around the world. But with the risk of vaccine nationalism still looming large, now is the time to finish the job.

LAGOS – 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.

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