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"Health Workers First" Campaign - Closing Statement

Tuesday marked the end of the 73rd World Health Assembly. All 186 member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered digitally to decide on the future of global health. This meeting has been occurring every year since 1948, but rarely before has it carried the weight to dramatically shift the course of history.

That’s why we launched a week-long snap campaign that is now coming to an end, to pressure the WHO to ensure priority access to health workers to future COVID-19 vaccines around the world. 

Within the space of a week, after having sent our request to the WHO and its directors, we gathered thousands of signatures, built a strong coalition of influential health workers, partnered with leading organizations, and have been featured in international media. People from the world stood by those risking everything to protect the world. They said it loudly, they said it proudly: put Health Workers First.

While countries didn’t commit to giving priority access to vulnerable populations to future COVID-19 vaccines at this year’s World Health Assembly, we welcome:

  1. The resolution adopted by the Assembly, which calls for equitable access to and fair distribution of all essential health technologies and products to combat the virus. An overwhelming majority of countries have aligned behind this principle that was at the core of our campaign,
  2. The role of health workers in fighting the pandemic - another fundamental element of our campaign - was acknowledged by the Director-General in his opening speech. There seems to be a consensus that health workers deserve recognition and care, given the outstanding contributions and sacrifices they performed during this crisis, and
  3. The plan to undertake an ‘impartial, independent, and comprehensive evaluation’ of the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

We, however, strongly condemn the threat of budget cuts and withdrawal of membership made by President Trump. Amid a pandemic that is likely to last many more months, such behaviour is dangerous for all people across the world. Improvements of the WHO are necessary, but lives need to be saved in the meanwhile. 

While this snap campaign is now ending, we will continue to:

  1. Stand for health workers rights around the world.
  2. Demand an increasing democratization process and independence of the WHO, and all intergovernmental institutions.
  3. Condemn nationalistic approaches to global crises: only together can we solve existential challenges!

Let’s continue to put #HealthWorkersFirst and ensure that they are not forgotten in the fight for vaccines.

Thank you, 

The NOW! Team 

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