On December 8, 2020 the first COVID-19 vaccine was administered in the United Kingdom. However, before vaccine manufacturing had been completed, global powers had bought up a disproportionate number of doses, leaving low and middle-income countries scrambling to figure out how to purchase doses for their residents.

“We have to work, as Dr. King referred to in 1963, ‘in the fierce urgency of now,’” said John Nkengasong, MSc, PhD, and Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. “If we don’t really use that fierce urgency of now, then we are in trouble. This virus will become endemic and it will spread out of control and the world will never be a safe place.”

While the global north secures far more vaccines than necessary, it ignores the African continent which is struggling to find available doses to fill their 1.5 billion dose need.

On January 14, 2021 the MGH Center for Global Health convened an expert panel to discuss this glaring example of health inequity. The panel included Vanessa Kerry, MD, MSc, co-founder and CEO of Seed Global Health, Wanda McClain, MPA, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity at Brigham Health, and Dr. John Nkengasong. Discussions included how inequity in the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States interplays with racism, the role of COVAX in global vaccine distribution, and the lessons that can learned from past pandemics.

“This is not vaccination in normal times, it is vaccination in extraordinary times,” said Dr. Nkengasong.

Watch the event here.

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