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News Tip: Global Vaccination Essential to Prevent Future COVID Variants, Expert Says

Only one in 10 residents of low-income countries are fully vaccinated against COVID-19

DURHAM, N.C. -- As many rich nations relax pandemic protections, only one in 10 residents of low-income countries are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving millions of lives at risk and increasing the likelihood that new variants will spread across the world, costing lives and causing economic chaos.

The following comments from Duke University professor Dr. Gavin Yamey, an expert on global health who can discuss equitable vaccination, are available for use in your coverage. Short video comments are available here.

“There are around 2.8 billion people on this planet who have not had a single dose of COVID-19 vaccines, and we have to address that,” says Dr. Gavin Yamey, a professor of public policy and global health at Duke and director of Duke’s Center for Policy Impact in Global Health. 

“This virus has shown us over and over again that when new variants arise, COVID-19 can be disastrous again. We have seen new variants of concern arise when SARS-CoV-2 is passing in an uncontrolled way through largely unvaccinated populations. The most effective way we can prevent further variants of concern from arising is to vaccinate the world,” said Yamey, who co-authored a policy paper commissioned by the British Medical Journal urging renewed focus on increasing vaccination rates and access in low- and middle-income countries.

“We are worried that we're going to see a situation similar to what we have seen with diseases like HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. Although rich countries largely got on top of these diseases and control them, they continue to be endemic in low- and middle-income countries and kill a lot of people.”

“Rich countries should be doing more to expand global vaccination, and donations are part of the puzzle but they're not the whole story. What we need long term is for the whole world to support globalized manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines so low-and middle-income countries can make COVID-19 vaccine doses for themselves.”

“If you can imagine a world in which everybody has access to those tools, you can see how we can turn COVID-19 into something akin to a cold or a mild flu.”

“There is another dimension to an enlightened self-interest when rich nations help to vaccinate low- and middle-income nations. We know that when the virus continues to move in an uncontrolled way through low- and middle-income countries, it has a knock-on economic effect for rich countries as well."

Dr. Gavin Yamey is a professor of the practice of global health and public policy at the Duke Global Health Institute. He is also director of the Center for Policy Impact in Global Health at Duke, which addresses challenges in financing and delivering global health. Yamey was an advisor in the creation of COVAX, a mechanism help ensure equitable distribution of COVID vaccines.

For additional comment, contact Dr. Gavin Yamey at:

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