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COVID-19 & Variants Remain Unresolved Crises as Global Leaders Convene

Project HOPE cites Global Health Security Agenda, urges unified global action to accelerate vaccine access, equity & production with billions of people still at risk of infection

Washington, D.C. (22 September 2021) – As the U.N. General Assembly ensues and White House convenes a Global COVID-19 Summit on September 22, Dr. Tom Kenyon, chief health officer at Project HOPE and former director of global programs at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), issued a statement urging unified global strategy and action to mitigate the pandemic and prepare for future ones while prioritizing global health security:

“The COVID-19 threat gets closer to each of us, with more than 8,000 people around the world still dying each day. We cannot be numb to these numbers. Globally, we haven’t seen excess mortality estimates like this in over 100 years.

“Response to this pandemic ideally would have entailed a chance to work together across the global community to minimize harm and address glaring health equity disparities. The Global Health Security Agenda offers an internationally agreed upon structure to better prevent and respond to global health threats, but without long-term investment, we don’t have the resources and conditions we need to succeed. As the COVID-19 pandemic makes painfully clear, lack of preparedness and ideas without investment results in catastrophic, preventable losses. It’s possible to galvanize momentum across global health and humanitarian sectors, but sound policy and stable investment are key for taking us out of the panic-forget cycle.

“Unfortunately, health equity gaps have only worsened through the COVID-19 pandemic, as the U.S. sees across data showing disproportionate harm to Black, Hispanic and Indigenous communities, and as we see globally in low- and middle-income countries. With all our world’s resources and efforts to date, it’s inexcusable that less than 4% of the African continent has been vaccinated. We all can and must do better together. While the newly announced target of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by United Nations General Assembly 2022 is good, taking a whole year to achieve that goal while the virus and variants keep spreading is not aggressive enough.

“Now is the time to address our shortfalls with urgency, not long-lead plans that will take many years to realize. Millions of lives remain at risk while new variants and new pandemics are just around the corner. We’re seeing promising signs of progress in mitigating COVID-19 and the Delta variant in some regions. However, we must double down on all efforts to fight the virus and stop the spread. We need more global coordination, more investment in pandemic preparedness and response, more production of vaccines, and most of all, more equitable access and resources distribution to sustain and increase some promising downward trends.

“As long as the majority of people in our world are unvaccinated, our entire world remains at risk. As Delta has made painfully clear, new variants emerge quickly, and have the potential for reducing the efficacy of the first-generation of vaccines and posing catastrophic threats. Through all means possible, we must make vaccines accessible and their life-saving role understandable to all people. No single country can solve this; we must lean forward into a unified global effort together until this pandemic emergency is over at last.”

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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