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In open letter on second anniversary of coronavirus pandemic, celebrities, experts and officials say: It isn’t over

People walk past a sign for a coronavirus vaccination center in London on March 10. (Toby Melville/Reuters)
2 min

On the second anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic, more than 130 world leaders, economists, humanitarians, scientists and other prominent figures are calling for an end to vaccine monopolies, urging action to rapidly vaccinate low- and middle-income countries.

In a letter coordinated by the People’s Vaccine Alliance and released two years to the date since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic, celebrities including Prince Harry, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Charlize Theron, and world leaders such as former Malawian president Joyce Banda, former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko and former U.N. secretary general Ban Ki-moon, urged leaders “to do what is necessary to end this crisis,” and reminded world leaders that the pandemic is not over.

“Sadly, despite what some leaders in wealthy countries would like us to believe, the pandemic is not over,” the letter says, “but it is within our grasp to end it.”

Banda said that “this pandemic is far from over in Africa and across the world,” with thousands of avoidable deaths happening each day. “We must recapture the spirit of solidarity to end the suffering and create a better future. That starts now with ending these callous pharmaceutical monopolies on covid-19 vaccines, so Africa and the world can tackle this crisis and the next,” she added.

The letter’s signatories criticized Germany, Switzerland, Britain and the European Union for continuing “to block the lifting of intellectual property rules which would enable the redistribution and scale-up of COVID-19 vaccine, test and treatment manufacturing in the global south.”

As most developed countries reopen while some developing nations continue to sustain coronavirus restrictions, a new global divide is emerging. “In some countries, high vaccine coverage, combined with the lower severity of omicron, is driving a false narrative that the pandemic is over,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Feb. 14 at a covid-19 Global Action Meeting. “At the same time, low vaccine coverage and low testing rates in other countries are creating the ideal conditions for new variants to emerge.”

Countries face new global covid divide on opening up or staying closed

Covax, a mechanism created at the beginning of the pandemic to supply low-income countries with the coronavirus vaccine, faced many obstacles in fulfilling its mission, mostly logistical hurdles and a supply shortage. The initiative, co-led by the WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, was able to ramp up distribution toward the end of last year.

More than 1 billion doses were delivered through Covax as of Jan. 17, according to Gavi.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Where do things stand? See the latest covid numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people.

The state of public health: Conservative and libertarian forces have defanged much of the nation’s public health system through legislation and litigation as the world staggers into the fourth year of covid.

Grief and the pandemic: A Washington Post reporter covered the coronavirus — and then endured the death of her mother from covid-19. She offers a window into grief and resilience.

Would we shut down again? What will the United States do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door?

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

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