Most Holy Father

Most holy father

Most Holy Father,

Inspired by your messages on interdependence and sharing, we humbly bring to your attention the issue of vaccine inequality plaguing our planet and ask you to support action to address the unequal distribution of global vaccines between high and low-income countries.

Over 6 billion doses have been administered worldwide, but 70% of these doses were administered by ten countries, while only 2% of people in low-income countries have received a vaccine dose.

Although vaccines are humanity’s true hope to end the pandemic, this is only the case if they are available to all.

No one is safe until we are all safe, so we must collaborate.

As you have said when urging people to get vaccinated, “Getting vaccinated is a simple yet profound way to care for one another, especially the most vulnerable.”

Just as the arrival of vaccines have instilled hope of an end to the pandemic, we believe that vaccine inequality can be ended.

But that will require high-level action by the ministers of the wealthiest countries.

As you have said, vaccines can “bring hope to end the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we collaborate with one another.”

Yet by the year’s end, because of overordering and stockpiling, the G7 nations will be sitting on a vaccine stockpile of unused doses that will be surplus to their requirements.

Meanwhile, only 5% of Africa is fully vaccinated.

Similar problems exist in large parts of Asia and Latin America.

In order to reach the 70% vaccination target the world has set – the vaccination levels of high-income countries – 5 billion more vaccines are needed, including 1.6 billion additional vaccines in Africa.

Achieving the goal is within the world’s reach, should high-income countries decide to share their surplus doses immediately.

Achieving this goal is within the world’s reach, should high-income countries decide to share their surplus doses immediately.

A detailed plan is needed to redistribute available vaccines and switch delivery contracts from countries that have overordered to the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility, the international bulk-purchasing agency aimed at equitable access to vaccines globally.

We urge you to press this idea on the G20 finance ministers when they meet in Rome on October 29 and the leaders who meet in your city on October 30.

We believe that the plan we outline below, which builds on the global vaccines summit convened by US President Joe Biden in September, can bring immediate relief to the poorest countries.

  • First, our evidence shows that four polities – the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, and Canada – will be stocking by the end of this month 240 million unused vaccines.With a concrete plan agreed by the G7 countries and endorsed by the G20, and with the help of the militaries of these countries, these vaccine supplies could be airlifted immediately to countries most in need.

    Let us stress that these 240 million doses will be unused vaccines even after the deployment of boosters in the West and the vaccination of 12-15-year-olds, and come on top of the donations that have already been agreed.

  • Second, another 212 million vaccines can be transferred by the end of November.
  • Third, a further airlift can be agreed for December of 150 million vaccines with 280 million more in January and 245 million in February – adding up to a transfer of vaccines and delivery contracts for vaccines totalling 1.1 billion in the next four months.These doses would help Africa and low-income countries achieve the currently unattainable World Health Organization vaccination targets of 40% by the end of the year or very soon after.
  • Fourth, the World Bank should make available additional finance to immediately build the capacity needed to administer vaccines quickly and effectively in not only the urban but the rural areas of low-income countries.

If all this is agreed and acted upon, we can meet what the WHO has said is a spring date in 2022 for 70% of all adults to be vaccinated.

We call your attention to the results if we do not airlift vaccines to countries in need.

Without a detailed plan, 100 million vaccine doses will have passed their use-by date by year’s end.

If we do not act quickly, the figure could exceed 200 million by the end of January 2022.

It would be unethical for all these vaccines to have to be wasted when globally there are 10,000 deaths every day, many of which could be averted.

The deployment of less than 100 million vaccines, 120,000 lives have already been saved

The information from a UK survey is that for the deployment of less than 100 million vaccines, 120,000 lives have already been saved, illustrating the benefits of a mass vaccination campaign in countries where a fourth wave of COVID-19 is happening and escalating numbers of lives are in danger of being lost.

We are in touch with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to assess their needs and the shortfall in vaccine supply.

They say that they are still recovering from a long and hard third wave that claimed the lives of 80,000 people since the start of August.

Unfortunately, the rate at which lives are being lost is increasing and not decreasing.

Vaccine inequality also constitutes a threat to us all.


You cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire.

With each new wave being worse than the previous wave, many experts fear that things will worsen when the impending fourth wave arrives unless vaccines are swiftly provided.

Vaccine inequality also constitutes a threat to us all.

After all, you cannot put out half a fire and be safe from the fire.

Fast-moving variants will continue to arise in unvaccinated regions, and mutations will arise, which may also spread out of low-income countries to the fully vaccinated in the West and undermine the progress we have made.

As you know, the probability of death increases with increasing poverty.

It is estimated that it will cost the world $5.3 trillion for failure to deliver vaccines to low-income countries who will bear the brunt of these costs as they cannot recover from the pandemic due to a lack of vaccines.

Thank you for considering our concerns regarding the devastating impact of vaccine inequality.

We humbly ask you to consider asking the G20 when it meets here in Italy to agree a month-by-month timetable detailing how and when Western countries donate their surplus stock to the Global South.

When the G20 convenes in Rome, we hope and pray that they will agree that the poorest and the most vulnerable can finally have access to the miracle of life-saving vaccines.

  • Gordon Brown is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Blair government from 1997 to 2007.
  • This open letter to Pope Francis was first published by Project Syndicate – The World’s Opinion Page
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