More than 70 of Australia’s leading epidemiologists, GPs, global health, business, development and aid organisations have signed on to an open letter calling on the Prime Minister to make a Budget commitment to accelerate the global vaccination effort and prevent the emergence of another COVID variant of concern.
It comes after US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken on Monday convened foreign ministers from around the world on Monday to coordinate additional leadership, political will, capacity, and resources, to achieve specific targets in the global COVID-19 response.
The letter was initiated by the End COVID For All in December as Omicron broke out and has now grown to include the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), the Business Council of Australia, the Burnet Institute, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and World Vision Australia.
Their joint letter outlines “grave concern regarding the state of global vaccine inequity” and highlights the opportunity “Australia has to help address this vital issue affecting us all”.
The letter calls on the Australian Government to take three critical steps:
- Continue to add our weight to tackling global vaccine inequity by committing an additional $250 million to the COVAX AMC Facility
- Use our partnerships to tackle vaccine hesitancy by committing $50 million from the existing $532 million Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative into addressing vaccine hesitancy in the Indo-Pacific
- Reduce the chance of future outbreaks, variants and pandemics by committing $100 million to the CEPI replenishment
End COVD For All spokesperson and CEPI chair Jane Halton said the return on these investments far outweighs the cost.
“We are dangerously behind our targets to vaccinate the world. Less than six per cent of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated and case numbers are increasing,” Ms Halton said.
“This not only puts these countries in a perilous position but is a significant threat to Australia.
“The emergence of Omicron in a region with dire vaccination rates proves, just as Delta did, that when left unchecked, COVID will mutate into more transmissible and deadly forms.”
End COVID For All spokesperson and Burnet Institute director Professor Brendan Crabb said the Australian Government can help save lives by ramping up its contribution to the global vaccination effort.
“1,582 people died from COVID across Australia in January alone. We cannot simply wait for another variant to arrive and wreak havoc on our lives, our health system, aged care and economy,” Professor Crabb said.
“The International Monetary Fund estimates the cost may rise beyond $US12.5 trillion by the end of 2024. That’s a very large slice of a circa $100 trillion global economy.
“Investing in COVAX, tackling vaccine hesitancy in the Indo-Pacific and backing CEPI to reduce the chance of future outbreaks is a small ask to help stem the damage, save lives and end COVID for all.