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Covid-19: Omicron variant must spur world leaders to share vaccines

To mark the one-year anniversary of the first Covid-19 vaccine administered worldwide, Amnesty International’s Health Advisor, Tamaryn Nelson, said:

“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant is a stark reminder of what happens when we fail to address the pandemic at a global level.  

“Experts have been warning us that the pandemic is global in nature and that an unequal distribution of vaccines around the world would only increase the chance of new variants emerging. Yet while some high-income countries have fully vaccinated nearly 90% of their populations, just over 7% of people in low-income countries have received a single dose.  

“Leaders in wealthy countries have been urging their populations to get vaccinated while repeatedly acknowledging the importance of vaccines to end the Covid-19 pandemic – especially in the wake of the Omicron variant. These same leaders, however, seem to forget that this same message applies to everybody around the world.

“It is shocking that wealthy countries, whose populations have all been offered vaccines, continue to hoard hundreds of millions of unused doses while pharmaceutical companies are still sending the lion’s share of their production to these same countries. 

“If we want to stem the tide of new variants and end the pandemic, states that have been stockpiling vaccines must immediately redistribute them whilst also ensuring countries have enough time and resources to adequately carry out a comprehensive roll-out. Likewise, pharmaceutical companies need to realize they are in the business of producing life-saving products that must go where they are needed most, not where they are paid top dollar.”

Background

Since 22 September 2021, Amnesty International has been calling on states and pharmaceutical companies to ensure equal access to Covid-19 vaccines so that at least 40% of people in low and lower-middle-income countries can get vaccinated by the end of 2021 with its campaign, The 100 Day Countdown: 2 billion vaccines now!. With less than 25 days left until the end of the year, it’s time to act now.