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BCG: Ending the Global Pandemic in 2022

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BCG: Ending the Global Pandemic in 2022

Rich Lesser, Chief Executive Officer BCG

Putting an end to the pandemic everywhere is the most urgent challenge facing humanity. And the global public- and private-sector communities have the power to make sure that job gets done before the end of 2022.

In our fight against COVID-19 in recent weeks, there’s been great progress in some parts of the world and heartbreaking setbacks in others.

In the US last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that those who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks outdoors or indoors under most circumstances. This is exciting news for about half the population in this country, and let’s hope it will encourage many others to get vaccinated. But at the same time, more than 10,000 people globally are dying of the disease every day. The situation is dire in parts of South America and particularly in India, which has been reporting more than 350,000 new daily cases. Other countries in South Asia and beyond are likely to follow.

It’s an untenable situation, but the good news is that we have the power to resolve it by the end of next year. It’s a question of will, collaboration, and execution.

At the current vaccination rate, 2.7 billion people won’t be fully vaccinated for years. If we don’t take bold action soon, the world may not emerge from the pandemic until 2024.

Currently, high-income countries have 100 times more access to COVID-19 vaccines than their low-income counterparts. While regions with enough availability of vaccines should continue to work against hesitancy and improve access, excess vaccines need to be quickly redistributed to the world’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations. The choices made over the coming weeks have the potential to save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world. The announcement in the US just now that it will ship 20 million more doses beyond its Astra-Zeneca stockpile is an encouraging first step, with more needed soon.

We don’t need a long, complicated debate about intellectual property protections. Instead, we can beat back this virus much more quickly by creating a global analogue to Operation Warp Speed, with the force of the world behind it. This means supporting vaccine makers in speeding up their development and manufacturing capabilities and expanding partnerships. It means coordinating distribution, supply chains, and logistics to get shots into arms all around the world with strong collaboration between governments and with the private sector. And we need the wheels for all this to start turning now.

The cost of inaction is high. We increase the likelihood of mutations that could push infection rates back up in places where they’ve gone down and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines already administered—leading those of us who’ve taken off our masks to put them right back on. And the virus will continue to spiral out of control in places where vaccination rates are low, creating even more suffering.

By making the right choices today, we have the opportunity to save millions of lives and move us beyond the scourge of this pandemic. It is our collective responsibility to act with speed and a collaborative spirit to protect the vulnerable and protect us all.

Until next week,

Rich Lesser
Chief Executive Officer

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