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Former CDC Director: Directs Covid-19 vaccines to where they need them most




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.

Vaccine inequity is a serious problem, both ethically and epidemiologically. Not only does it cause preventable deaths and economic and social disruptions, but it also increases the risk of dangerous variants appearing. Rich countries have excess vaccines, while low- and middle-income countries go without.

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.

At this time it is crucial to direct vaccines to where they need them most. Globally, this means prioritizing access and coverage for vaccination and monitoring it among health care workers and people aged 60 and over. There are an estimated 50 million health workers worldwide, including approximately 1.7 million in Africa. The deaths of health workers by Covid-19 are avoidable, however, more than 17,000 have died.

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.

In the United States we have come a long way in vaccination. Towards summer, we will see cases, hospitalizations and fallen deaths. But we still need to do more to reach the unvaccinated. The “build it and they will come” vaccination phase is over. About 6 out of 10 adults in the United States have already been vaccinated at least partially and more and more people are choosing to get vaccinated every day. But there is a misconception that most unvaccinated people are not willing to get vaccinated.
Many saw a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey as a negative sign. I saw it differently, just one a small portion of people are firmly opposed to vaccination and no more people have yet been vaccinated for lack of access, rather than reluctance.
Comfortable access to vaccines remains the biggest challenge of the U.S. immunization program. According to a new one KFF survey published last week, unvaccinated Hispanic adults are twice as likely White adults want a vaccine against Covid-19 as soon as they can get it. And in one Consultation in the morning survey, 77% of white adults who want to make a prey have i got one, but that figure is only 60% for black adults and 55% for Hispanic adults.
We need to be proactive. We should call and send reminders to patients to get the first and second dose. Vaccination should be widely available in doctor’s offices, churches, schools, corner shops, supermarkets, bars, pop-ups at community events and beyond, which means reaching people wherever they are. A great idea: the New York Yankees, New York Mets and other teams offer it now vaccination in ball games, along with free tickets.
Reluctance it’s also a problem, but comfort tends to outweigh reluctance. More and more people understand that vaccination is a path to more freedom rather than moving away from it. Withholdings will be reduced as vaccination becomes the norm.
Nearly 80% of the U.S. population lives less than 5 miles from the three Covid-19 vaccines

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.

In the long run, we need to position mRNA as a platform to address coronavirus variants and other emerging threats, balance proper respect for intellectual property with the public good of pandemic prevention and public funding that is intended for the production of these vaccines and increase the number of vaccine producers. And we need it strengthen preparation more generally.
The pandemic is far from over. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not blinded by it. If we work together effectively across borders, we can end this emergency and be more resilient to future health threats. We are really all connected. We have to act like this. An outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere.