We hope 2022 is the year that we later remember as the year that brought this pandemic to an end. Debates are being held at various forums, including at the recently held Davos Forum, on Omicron being highly transmissible, but not as pathogenic, introducing a single annual booster, new variants that may elude the immune response, and vaccine inequality that is leaving swathes of the world behind – to be exact, the continent of Africa has only 7 percent of its 1.2-billion population immunized, and 85 percent have not received even a single dose, while their counterparts have excess vaccines. This includes India that has recently declared it has 127.9-million balance and unutilized Covid-19 vaccine doses available with Indian states and Union Territories. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has gone from five manufacturers to 18, more than enough, assuming they are sustainable manufacturers.
Greater cooperation and greater solidarity will be required to end this pandemic. We may never end the virus; pandemic viruses may have become part of the ecosystem. All we can do is end the present public health emergency. We need to end the deaths, and hospitalizations. It is the disruption of our social, economic, and political systems that caused the tragedy, not the virus. The virus is a vehicle. It is how society has reacted to the virus. Endemic just means it is here forever. What we need to do is get to low levels of disease incidents with maximum vaccination of our populations, so nobody has to die. That is the end of the emergency; that is the end of the pandemic. Distributing vaccines across the world, getting the majority of the world vaccinated, developing a long-lasting robust immunity, and staying ahead of the next variant and then the next. That this human race faces an existential crisis, must be recognized.
Right now, it is clear we do not have a multilateral global system that is fit for purpose in dealing with these global existential threats to our lives, to our societies, and our economies. We need to strategically distribute the production capacity in a way that we can trust more in our likelihood of receiving vaccines from that at scale, and more quickly. And we need to increase, sustain our ability to carry out surveillance of this virus, beef up and sustain our clinical care, focus on vaccine production, and delivery right down to the last mile. We need to get involved in creating these technology-transfer hubs, and have a multi-layered approach to this problem. Everyone has a stake in that everyone is a partner, nobody is a master. We need a multilateral transnational solution with public-private engagement, a robust mechanism that defines our performance. We have a responsibility to come out of this pandemic, with the skills and infrastructure that we need for the next one. That is our best chance of being ready!