In the United States, we need to be more proactive in reaching the millions of people who have not yet reached the vaccine. Globally, we need to rapidly increase vaccine manufacturing and vaccinate the 50 million health workers and 1 billion people over the age of 60.
The reality is that the global supply of vaccines will lag behind the need for at least another year. Opening access to intellectual property is a step, but we need much more: transfer of vaccine technology; use all means to solve supply chain problems; and establish production centers. We can also be more strategic in the use of the available vaccine.
Vaccination of all health workers in the world would require less than a week of global vaccine production. Vaccination of health workers not only protects them, but also protects the continued ability of health systems to provide life-saving care. This is particularly crucial in Africa, which faces millions more deaths from measles, tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, unless health care services are maintained. We need to support countries so that they can focus on doing so.
It is estimated that more than 80% of deaths from Covid-19 worldwide belong to people aged 60 and over. There are approximately 1 billion people over the age of 60, and about 300 million of those millions live in countries with an insufficient vaccine and a significant risk of Covid-19, including 74 million in Africa. We should also support countries to get this group vaccinated as soon as possible.
Globally, wherever the coronavirus spreads, we must continue to mask and move away. These are the only measures that will make a difference in the short term as we expand vaccination programs and are essential in the medium term. Vaccination, even if available, will not crush the curve for months in places where there is now an explosive dispersal.
Vaccination will save lives and prevent explosive spread wherever available. But in most parts of the world, the way to save lives right now is to mask, distance, and improve ventilation. This is what we need to do in the coming months.
In the short term, we need to rapidly expand supplies of materials and services throughout the global supply chain, save as many lives as possible by providing existing vaccines to prioritize vaccination of health workers and the elderly, and continue masking and moving away to flatten the curve now where the spread is out of control.
In the medium term, we need to transfer vaccine technology to regional manufacturing centers so that effective vaccines, especially mRNA vaccines, can be expanded rapidly, especially for low- and middle-income countries. Transferring mRNA technology and increasing production globally are essential and the most important step we can take to help end the pandemic. Not sharing this technology puts us all at constant risk.
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