The global death toll due to COVID-19 officially passed four million late on Wednesday, marking yet another “grim milestone” and underlining the urgent need for the world to put a Global Vaccine Plan in place to get the pandemic under control, said the UN chief in a statement.
“Many of us know this loss directly and feel its pain”, said Secretary-General António Guterres. “We mourn mothers and fathers who gave guidance, sons and daughters who inspired us, grandmothers and grandfathers who shared wisdom, colleagues and friends who lifted our lives.”
He said that while vaccines “offer a ray of hope” most of the world lagged behind: “The virus is outpacing vaccine distribution. This pandemic is clearly far from over; more than half its victims died this year. Many millions more are at risk if the virus is allowed to spread like wildfire.”
The more COVID-19 spreads, the more variants we see, the UN chief noted, some of which are more transmissible, more deadly and more likely to undermine the effectiveness of current vaccines.
“Bridging the vaccine gap requires the greatest global public health effort in history”, he said, calling for a Global Vaccine Plan to at least double production of vaccines and ensure equitable distribution, using the UN-supported COVAX international COVID inoculation facility, as the main platform.
Guterres said an effective global plan would support implementation and financing; increase countries’ readiness and capacity to roll out immunization programmes, and tackle “the serious problem of vaccine hesitancy.”
To realize this plan, I am calling for an Emergency Task Force that brings together all the countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization (WHO), the global vaccine alliance GAVI, and international financial institutions able to deal with the relevant pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers, and other key stakeholders.”
The Secretary-General said that vaccine equity was “the greatest immediate moral test of our times”, calling it a practical necessity. “Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone is under threat”, he concluded.