‘Vaccine inequity risks global health, economic recovery and climate justice’

Dear CEOs of Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna,

This World Health Day (Thursday 7 April 2022), we are highlighting the inequalities and injustices of our health systems. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed how unequal our societies are. Within countries, illness and death from COVID-19 has been higher among people and communities that live in the poorest areas, than for those in the wealthiest places. A new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) released this month showed that only a tiny proportion of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in developing countries, leading to a widening gap between rich and poor.

All C40 cities share a mission to overcome the climate emergency, but that will not be possible unless we also overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. This means sharing life-saving vaccine technologies fairly, equitably and rapidly across the globe.

Two years from the start of the pandemic, vaccines are forming a key line of defence against serious illness and death. Vaccination rates in Europe and North America are high, with a majority fully vaccinated, and many countries now offering boosters. Yet, there is scant access to vaccines in low-income countries across the world, in which the pandemic continues to cause immense suffering in cities and to communities, and damage to economies. Even at this stage, more than three billion people have not received their first dose. Only 10% of people in the entire continent of Africa are fully vaccinated.

The UN Secretary General has called vaccine equity “the biggest moral test” for the global community. We agree. A year on, the risk of new variants still means no one is safe from the impacts of the pandemic until everyone has non-discriminatory access to these life-saving technologies. 

Vaccination of patients in hospital against covid-19 pandemic. Hands of african american doctor in protective gloves puts band aid to inculcate site to patient in clinic.
© Prostock-Studio / Getty Images

Vaccines are life-saving, and vaccine equity is critical to getting out of the current pandemic and starting to build a fairer, greener future. The development of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines depended upon significant sums of public money. You have now made substantial and unprecedented profits and have a moral responsibility to do all you can to help stop the unnecessary loss of life.

Low and middle income countries can no longer afford for vaccines to simply be allocated to them. More companies and institutions, especially those in the Global South, must be enabled to produce the vaccine themselves, to boost supply and ensure more people are rapidly vaccinated. More than 100 qualified companies in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have the capacity to produce COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

We urge you, the leaders of Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, to share your technologies through the World Health Organisation, so vaccine equity can finally be achieved and we can save lives across the world.

This call is not new. We join millions across the world, and many in the Global South, who are calling for this. It is vital that everyone can access vaccines.

We have seen first-hand the impact of COVID-19 in our cities, as around 18 million lives have already been lost worldwide, and many more are left suffering with long COVID. Our cities are also home to a large number of people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. 

As mayors, it’s our responsibility to lay the foundation for the fair societies and healthy planet our residents deserve. We need to urgently lead our cities out of the pandemic, realising their economic and environmental aspirations to combat the climate crisis. Many mayors are already taking proactive steps in this direction, showing their readiness and capacity to support inclusive distribution of testing, medical treatment and vaccines to vulnerable communities, such as the elderly, undocumented migrants and other hard-to-reach groups. But in order to deliver at scale, we need your support. 

We urge your companies to do the right thing for global health, economic recovery and climate justice with immediate effect and share your technology. There is no time to lose if we are to save lives today and tomorrow.

C40 Chair and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
C40 Vice Chair for Africa and Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Mpho Phalatse
Mayor of New York City Eric Adams

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