As the world on Monday passed yet another sombre pandemic milestone – five million lives lost to COVID-19 – Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on global leaders to back the UN strategy to make vaccine equity a reality by accelerating efforts and ensuring maximum vigilance to defeat the virus.
In a statement issued to mark the crossing of this “painful threshold”, the UN chief said the “devastating milestone reminds us that we are failing much of the world. While wealthy countries are rolling out third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, only about five per cent of the people in Africa are fully vaccinated.”
“This is a global shame. Five million deaths should also stand as a clear warning: we cannot let our guard down,” Guterres said, explaining that the world was still seeing more deaths, overcrowded hospitals and exhausted health workers, as well as the risk of new variants spreading and claiming more lives.
At the same time, he noted that other dangerous threats continue to allow COVID-19 to thrive: misinformation, vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism, and lack of global solidarity.
“I urge world leaders to fully support the Global Vaccine Strategy I launched with the World Health Organization (WHO) last month,” the Secretary-General said, adding: “We need to get vaccines into the arms of 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year, and 70 per cent by mid 2022.”
He also called on world leaders to deliver with urgency and scale, address funding gaps and coordinate their actions for success.
Guterres said that it would be a mistake to think that the pandemic is over. As restrictions ease in many places, “we must also match vaccines with vigilance – including through smart and proven public health measures like masking and social distancing.”
“The best way to honor those five million people lost – and support health workers fighting this virus every day – is to make vaccine equity a reality by accelerating our efforts and ensuring maximum vigilance to defeat this virus,” he added.