The City of New York is a signatory to the below letter on worldwide COVID-19 vaccine equity. It is addressed to all G20 nations.
The letter focuses on the Global South and low-income countries. It calls on G20 leaders to improve vaccination levels through better communication about the benefits of vaccines and easier access to shots.
We, as public health leaders of the local and regional governments, stand together in calling for the G20 to take immediate action on global COVID-19 vaccine equity. We represent the health authorities of major cities — the most interconnected parts of our world. In our roles at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic response, we are acutely aware of how local progress in mitigating COVID-19 infections can quickly be undone in the face of ongoing global spread. We also represent the cooperation necessary to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic, standing in solidarity as public health experts seeking to prevent unnecessary suffering and death from this pandemic, across all countries.
Despite numerous calls for global vaccine equity, we have not seen enough collective action to improve vaccine access in the Global South. Greater scale and speed are needed to prevent significant inequitable mortality, emergence of additional variants, and ongoing COVID-19 surges. Efforts to date can be summed up as “too little, too late.” As of last month, only 10% of the population in low-income countries have received one dose of vaccine, compared to nearly 80% in high income countries. These are the very inequities that led to the emergence of the delta and omicron variants.
It is within the power of the G20 to take urgent, specific actions to prevent further suffering and death in our interconnected countries. We call on you to immediately schedule an emergency meeting of all members plus representation from the United Nations and the World Health Organization to establish a plan to achieve the following:
Increase access to accurate information about vaccination and prevent the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines by:
Holding social media/tech companies and anti-vaccination groups accountable for the spread of misinformation.
Prioritizing partnerships with trusted community groups to build vaccine confidence, support navigation to vaccination sites, and counter misinformation.
Investing in national and global public health messaging efforts to encourage vaccination.
Increase equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines by:
Ensuring that countries in the Global South have appropriate vaccine infrastructure, particularly around cold chain maintenance and that donations do not create an unfair burden based on expiration dates.
Adjusting G20 country vaccine donations to COVAX based on demand in recipient countries.
Committing to producing at least 15 billion mRNA doses in the next six months, including investing in manufacturing capacity in the Global South.
Following through on previous commitments to share intellectual property and expertise to enable more Global South countries to manufacture vaccines at home.
Publicly voicing support for the WTO Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waiver.
The nations of the G20 can change the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic while building global resilience and global solidarity. The health of each country impacts the health of all countries — the time to act is now.
Ministry of Health, Buenos Aires City, Argentina
Edson Aparecido dos Santos
Municipal Secretary of Health, São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Eileen de Villa, MD, MBA, MHSc, CCFP, FRCPC
Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dr. Cory Neudorf
Interim Senior Medical Health Officer, Saskatchewan Health Authority, President, Urban Public Health Network, Canada, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Carlos Mario Marin
Mayor, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia
Head of the Public Health Department, City of Paris, France
Dr. Antonio Zapatero-Gaviria, MD, PhD
Head of PLAN COVID, Madrid, Spain
Dr. Tom Coffey
Mayor’s Health Advisor, London, United Kingdom
Dave A. Chokshi, MD, MSc
43rd Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York
Ashwin Vasan, ScM, MD, PhD
44th Commissioner, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, New York
Dr. Virginia Cardozo
Director of Health Division, Montevideo, Uruguay
Cheryl Bettigole, MD, MPH
Health Commissioner, Philadelphia Department of Public Health
Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd
Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
Fermin Leguen, MD, MPH
District Health Officer, Southern Nevada Health District, Las Vegas
Allison Arwady, MD, MPH
Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health
Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH
Commissioner of Public Health, Boston Public Health Commission
Stephen L. Williams, M.Ed., MPA
Director, Houston Health Department
Sara H. Cody, MD
Health Officer and Public Health Director, County of Santa Clara, San Jose, California
Jessica Guernsey, MPH
Public Health Director, Multnomah County Health Department, Oregon
LaQuandra S. Nesbitt, MD, MPH
Director, DC Health, District of Columbia