Today, the human family crosses a painful new threshold — five million lives lost to COVID-19. These are not numbers on a page. They are mothers and fathers. Brothers and sisters. Daughters and sons. Family, friends and colleagues.
Lives cut short by a merciless virus that respects no borders. This devastating milestone reminds us that we are failing much of the world. While wealthy countries are rolling-out third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, only about five per cent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated. This is a global shame.
Five million deaths should also stand as a clear warning: we cannot let our guard down. We are still seeing more deaths. Overcrowded hospitals and exhausted health workers. And the risk of new variants spreading and claiming more lives. At the same time, other dangerous threats continue to allow COVID-19 to thrive — misinformation, vaccine hoarding and vaccine nationalism, and lack of global solidarity.
I urge world leaders to fully support the Global Vaccination Strategy I launched with the World Health Organization last month. We need to get vaccines into the arms of 40 per cent of people in all countries by the end of this year — and 70 per cent by mid-2022. I call on them to deliver with urgency and scale, address funding gaps and coordinate their actions for success.
It would be a mistake to think that the pandemic is over. As restrictions ease in many places, we must also match vaccines with vigilance — including through smart and proven public health measures like masking and social distancing. The best way to honour those five million people lost — and support health workers fighting this virus every day — is to make vaccine equity a reality by accelerating our efforts and ensuring maximum vigilance to defeat this virus.