Had COVID-19 vaccines been shared equitably with the world, at least 1.3 million lives could have been saved in the first year of the rollout, or one preventable death every 24 seconds, an open letter said on Saturday.
On the third anniversary since the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the outbreak of COVID-19 as a pandemic, "we have also seen a global response held back by profiteering and nationalism," noted the open letter coordinated by the People's Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of over 100 organizations and networks to improve people's access to vaccines.
"Instead of rolling out vaccines, tests, and treatments based on need, pharmaceutical companies maximized their profits by selling doses first to the richest countries with the deepest pockets," the letter said.
Even as the world enters the fourth year of the pandemic, many developing countries can not access affordable treatments or tests, and poor women, people of color, and people in low- and middle-income countries carry the main burden of the impact of COVID-19, it noted.
"The tragedy of this pandemic is made all the greater because this inequity was preventable and the scale of the impacts of COVID-19 could have been greatly reduced," it added.
The letter urged world leaders to take actions, including supporting a pandemic accord at the WHO, investing in scientific innovation and manufacturing capacity in the Global South, investing in global common goods, removing the intellectual property barriers, to plan an equitable response to the next global health crisis and prevent a repetition of the pain.