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81 Million Health Care Workers Worldwide Are Not Fully Vaccinated, Despite Promised Protection

Washington, DC (October 25, 2021) — Already fragile health systems around the globe are at an even higher risk of collapsing if emphasis is not put on protecting the global health workforce. Up to 180,000 health care workers have already died from COVID-19 infection, though that number is highly underreported and will only continue to grow as Delta and new variants surge in regions with low vaccination rates. Supply is the biggest obstacle facing these areas, as only 2 in 5 health care workers around the world are fully vaccinated, with the vast majority of those residing in higher-income nations.

Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and 21-year veteran of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued the following statement:

“The promise of protection has been broken, leaving behind mistrust and hesitancy. Health care workers around the globe need to know they are protected and supported, and be reinforced with resources, education, protective equipment and the tools to safely perform their jobs on the frontlines of this pandemic.

“In fragile health systems, losing health care workers by any means – whether in isolation from COVID-19 infection, having passed away from the virus, emigrating to better working conditions or more protection, resigning due to strenuous mental health conditions – is also a loss of knowledge. These losses often occur moreso in vulnerable populations with weak disease surveillance, so we will never know the true extent of its impact.

“One of the greatest health inequities of all time is happening as we speak with COVID-19 vaccine supply and the mass shortages we’re seeing worldwide. Unvaccinated populations are more likely to contribute to the mutation of the coronavirus and spread existing variants; if these populations are the ones treating vulnerable patients, we cannot imagine the outcomes.

“At the one-year landmark in early March, I said that our daily question must be, ‘How can we save as many lives as possible?’ Five months later, that question remains, and the answer is still the same: equitable, accessible global immunization.

“Health care workers have experienced unthinkable suffering. The toll may bring a lifetime of mental health battles and nightmare memories. We need to guarantee their protection now and throughout their careers.”

Interviews available upon request. 
Contact: Cinira Baldi, Vice President, Chief Communications & Development Officer, Project HOPE, media@ProjectHOPE.org

About Project HOPE   
With the mission to place power in the hands of local health workers to save lives around the world, Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization operating in more than 25 countries. Founded in 1958, we work side-by-side with local health systems to improve health and support community resilience. We work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; pandemic preparedness and response; mental health for health workers; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered. For more information, visit www.ProjectHOPE.org and follow us on Twitter @ProjectHOPEorg.

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