April 22, 2021

Watch, Read, Listen, Act: Addressing the Urgent Need for Global Vaccine Equity

The rapid development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines signifies a new era in the fight against the pandemic. Yet while there is incredible potential to save millions of lives globally, vaccine nationalism is curtailing equitable vaccine distribution; paving a path that has been described as a “catastrophic moral failure.” While countries such as the UK, Canada, and USA have secured contracts to vaccinate their populations several times over, millions of people living in the Global South will not be able to get vaccinated until 2024.

As‌ ‌COVID-19‌ ‌continues‌ ‌to‌ ‌ravage‌ ‌populations‌ ‌around‌ ‌the‌ ‌world,‌ ‌these‌ ‌vast‌ ‌and‌ ‌ongoing‌ ‌inequities‌ ‌in‌ ‌vaccine‌ ‌rollout‌ ‌have‌ ‌made‌ ‌clear‌ ‌the‌ ‌urgent‌ ‌need‌ ‌for‌ ‌global‌ ‌vaccine‌ ‌equity.‌ ‌In‌ ‌view‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌issue,‌ ‌the‌ ‌Harvard‌ ‌Global‌ ‌Health‌ ‌Institute‌ ‌is‌ ‌supporting‌ ‌efforts‌ ‌across‌ ‌several‌ ‌fronts‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌clear‌ ‌the‌ ‌critical‌ ‌nature‌ ‌of‌ ‌this‌ ‌issue‌ ‌and‌ ‌advance‌ ‌insights‌ ‌for‌ ‌equitable‌ ‌and‌ ‌efficient‌ ‌vaccine‌ ‌development,‌ ‌allocation,‌ ‌and‌ ‌distribution‌ ‌policies.‌

Here is how you can get involved:

WATCH: Tune in to practical, timely discussions around the issues of vaccine distribution, confidence, and pandemic preparedness with HGHI’s Spring 2021 webinar series on global vaccine equity, hosted in partnership with Ariadne Labs and the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research (CFAR). 

READ: Consider the scope of and strategies for mitigating this global, ethical crisis in “From Vaccine Nationalism to Vaccine Equity — Finding a Path Forward,” a NEJM Perspective by HGHI Interim Faculty Director Dr. Allan Brandt, HGHI Associate Faculty Director Dr. Ingrid Katz, and colleagues Dr. Rebecca Weintraub and Dr. Linda-Gail Bekker. 

LISTEN: Hear directly from Dr. Ingrid Katz, as she reflects on the key takeaways from her article,  “From Vaccine Nationalism to Vaccine Equity — Finding a Path Forward.”

ACT: Join HGHI in signing an open letter to the Biden administration and pharmaceutical company leaders urging the adoption of strategies to address the profoundly inequitable global distribution of vaccines & join A Week of Action to Free the Vaccine!


The Harvard Global Health Institute has partnered with Ariadne Labs and the Harvard University Center for AIDS Research (CFAR) to host a three-part webinar series on global vaccine equity. Catch up to speed on the first two webinars, and register for the 3rd and final session, below:

March 11th – Promoting Vaccine Equity: A Global Perspective on COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

April 8th – Building Vaccine Confidence: Global Trends and Practical Solutions

April 29th, 9 AM EST – Reimagining Pandemic Preparedness: Making Equity a Strategic Priority

Register here!


In their NEJM Perspective piece, a team of Harvard-based health experts lay out the current bottlenecks and barriers to equitable vaccine distribution, offer a forward-looking analysis of equity-advancing policy imperatives, and share key considerations for future pandemic preparedness. Read the full article here!


In this interview, HGHI Associate Faculty Director Dr. Ingrid Katz joins NEJM Executive Managing Editor Dr. Stephen Morrissey to discuss the threat of vaccine nationalism and dive deeper into the recommendations offered in the NEJM Perspective piece. Listen now!


Sign: In an open letter to President Biden and leaders of the US pharmaceutical industry, public health and medical experts are calling for urgent, concrete steps towards supporting global vaccine equity. The letter raises key policy imperatives around vaccine production, delivery, and pricing. HGHI stands in full support of these recommendations. We encourage readers to sign the letter & retweet today!

Participate: Join A Week of Action to Free the Vaccine happening now! We invite those located in the United States to email their congressperson to ask them to sign the Congressional TRIPS Waiver Letter. Find your representative here.

Sample email for your congressperson:

“Dear [Representative],

I am writing as a member of the medical community in your district who is deeply concerned about global inequity in COVID-19 vaccination. I urge you to support the emergency COVID-19 TRIPS waiver by signing the Schakowsky-Blumenauer-DeLauro letter to President Biden. The pace of global vaccine production and distribution is inequitable; it leaves us vulnerable to the alarming rates of COVID-19 spread and new variants that may make vaccines and treatments ineffective.

The global vaccine roll-out has resulted in vaccination of residents in high-income countries while leaving billions of people in low- and middle-income countries without access. This is immoral and medically unsound. Delivering vaccines only to wealthy countries is like trying to extinguish a house fire by pouring water in only one room.

We must remove the barriers to expanding global vaccine production and distribution. I am asking you to join the call for the US to support “Waiver from Certain Provisions of the TRIPS Agreement for the Prevention, Containment and Treatment of COVID-19”, supported by more than 100 nations at the World Trade Organization. The congressional sign-on letter has received signatures from several Massachusetts members of the U.S. House of Representatives, and I urge you to do the same.

We are in a race against time. If vaccines, testing and treatments are only provided to residents of the world’s wealthiest countries, one of this generation’s greatest biotechnological achievements will go down as its greatest moral and public health failing.


[Your Name]”