Public health leaders who contained the Ebola epidemic make the case for COVID-19 vaccine technology transfer, open access vaccines for poor countries, and donation of funds and doses for vaccines
MONROVIA, LIBERIA— Thirty veterans from the public health response to the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak and over eighty other public health experts from around the world are calling on the World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), to vote in its May 2021 meeting on propositions that would dramatically expand vaccine access in Africa and poor countries worldwide.
The demands come in an open letter to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, that is organized by Mosoka Fallah, founder of the Liberian non-profit Refuge Place International whose heroic work during the 2014 Ebola epidemic was documented by The New York Times. Signatories include Chikwe Ihekweazu, the Director General of the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, and Bernice Dahn, the Deputy Minister in the Liberian Ministry of Health.
From May 24 to June 1, nations will convene at the World Health Assembly to make decisions about the global response to COVID-19. Signatories of the open letter argue that G20 and other wealthy countries must go beyond waiving patents for low-income countries to donate all of their excess doses of COVID-19 vaccines to poor countries that have been outbid for vaccines. The letter reads, “as we learned through the Ebola pandemic, poverty and geography should not be the determinants of access to life-saving vaccines.”
This open letter is vital to Africa, as the continent has received relatively very few doses of vaccines, and issues such as cold chain requirements and infrastructure gaps make vaccine transportation difficult. Africa contains 16% of the world’s population, but by mid-May it had only received 2% of the world’s vaccine supply. Several African countries, such as Chad, Burundi, and Tanzania had received no doses of the vaccine.
Mosokah Fallah added, “we are at a pivotal moment in human history: will the WHO fulfill its mandate of universal healthcare by instituting universal vaccine care? All eyes are on the WHO.” The letter was assisted by 1Day Africa, the African chapter of 1Day Sooner, a non-profit that advocates for volunteers who want to take part in high-impact medical trials, including COVID-19 human challenge trials.
On Wednesday, May 12th, Mosoka Fallah along with Ezekiel Emanuel, member of President Biden’s transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, Vardit Ravitsky, President of the International Association of Bioethics, and Gita Sen, Director of the Ramalingaswami Centre on Equity & Social Determinants of Health, discussed their letter to the World Health Assembly. The virtual event was co-organized by Center for Population-Level Bioethics at Rutgers University and 1Day Sooner.
*Source 1Day Sooner