UNICEF is deeply concerned about the new COVID-19 variant Omicron and about the continuing strikingly inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
New variants like Omicron remind us that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. The more opportunities the virus has to spread all over the world, the greater the chance it will mutate and that new variants will arise. In the worst case, new variants may actually prove even more contagious or deadly. It is therefore a matter of urgent necessity for countries all over the world to work together to enable equitable access to vaccines, tests and treatments.
Richer countries with large stocks of vaccines have enough to vaccinate their populations and donate doses to other countries. They can and must do both. Some richer countries have generously pledged to donate a share of their doses of vaccine to low- and middle-income economies. These developments are very welcome, but they are not sufficient and progress is not fast enough. We have no time to lose.
UNICEF has already delivered hundreds of millions of vaccines all over the world and is prepared to deliver more doses wherever they are needed. UNICEF can make deliveries very quickly by air. However, we need rich countries, manufacturers and all parties in the supply chain to overcome bureaucratic, political and economic hurdles so that we can clear the way for even speedier delivery.
Because the pandemic is not over for any of us until it is over for all of us.