Australia’s leading epidemiologists, global health, business, development and aid organisations have united to call on the Federal Government to urgently ramp up its global vaccination efforts following the emergence of the Omicron variant.
The coalition, brought together by End COVID For All, includes the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Global Health Alliance, Burnet Institute, Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
End COVID For All spokesperson Reverend Tim Costello said the spread of another variant of concern is tragically unsurprisingly given low global vaccination rates.
“The emergence of Omicron proves what we have known for some time now, when the virus is left unchecked, it will mutate into potentially more transmissible and dangerous forms.
“Only three per cent of people in low-income countries are fully vaccinated and case numbers are increasing.
“This is unfair, immoral, dangerous for those communities and dangerous for Australia.
“While Australia enjoys some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, it won’t mean much if COVID mutates into a vaccine-resistant strain.
“New and unknown variants threaten to undo progress even in nations with high vaccine coverage.
“COVID-19 really isn’t over for anyone until it’s over for everyone.”
“Investing $250 million in COVAX and $100 million in the upcoming replenishment of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) are two strong steps Australia can take.
“We have seen the power of Australia’s contributions to our neighbours like Fiji, where more than 90 per cent of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated and the Delta outbreak has been brought under control for the time being.
“As we have seen time and time again throughout this pandemic, COVID does not respect regional boundaries, so we must expand our support beyond our immediate Pacific neighbourhood.
“Investing in the global COVAX facility will help ensure doses are available to lower-income countries who may not be able to procure doses on their own.
“COVAX leverages global expertise in distributing and administering vaccines to get a better price and ensure doses are allocated equitably.
“Further, contributing to CEPI will help accelerate the end of COVID while protecting the world from future pandemics.
“The Australian Government must also commit $50 million for major public health campaigns to combat vaccine hesitancy.
“The pandemic has so far had a catastrophic impact on the fight against other diseases, setting back years of hard-fought progress and undermining global health security.
“In 2020, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB dropped by a staggering 19 per cent and people helped by HIV prevention programs and services declined by 11 per cent compared to the previous year.
“Devastatingly, it is predicted that 150 million more people will end up in extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic.
“Inaction risks decades of development and humanitarian efforts. We cannot in good conscience sit idly by and let it happen when we have the financial firepower and resources to prevent it.”