"Protection from this horrible virus is within reach for my family and me soon. But I can’t relax, knowing that a big portion of middle and low-income countries have no end in sight."
By Linda Messmer, Team Leader, NOW! Colorado, USA
I live in the US and I am 69 years old. What do I have in common with the rest of the world? We have all had our lives turned upside down for a full year now due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am happy to say that in late February 2021, I received my first Moderna vaccination and in a few short weeks will have my second. My husband has had both shots and my 90-year-old mother had hers before we did.
“Have you had your first shot or both shots yet?"
In any recent gathering of my peers, the vaccine is on everyone’s minds. The first questions asked are: “Have you had your first shot or both shots yet? Which did you get – Pfizer or Moderna? Did you have side effects and how long did they last? What do you hear about Johnson & Johnson? What is the first thing you want to do after you achieve maximum immunity?”
No, this does not mean that the tragedies of COVID-19 are completely behind us in the US. We will be reeling from its effects for a long time as new cases, hospitalizations and deaths sadly still occur. The suffering continues. We are fortunate, though, that the number of cases is rapidly dropping, and talk of the vaccine is taking over our conversations quickly.
Although currently in the US most of those in my age group still connect with each other primarily over Zoom, social media or talk by phone, there’s a feeling in the air that there is a light at the end of the tunnel soon. We dream about traveling, seeing the grandkids, attending events, and someday daring to hug each other. Maybe this summer we will even take a little trip.
Sadly, not all people have these plans in common with me or hopes that they will return to more normal activities in a matter of months. In many other countries around the world, their first questions of each other are currently the same as ours were a few months ago:
“How are you and your family handling the quarantine? Are you able to visit your COVID-positive relative in the hospital by Facetime, through a window, or not at all? Are they on a ventilator? Have you been able to keep your job? Or worst of all – “How are you holding up following the death of your loved one from COVID? Did you have a virtual memorial service or are you waiting until family can gather and mourn together – to say goodbye to that beloved person who was a living, breathing human being walking around in good health only a few weeks ago?”
Don’t get me wrong. We continue to have these same concerns here. But In conversations in many other countries, the questions that dominate are not, “when is your vaccination scheduled? Will it be March, April, May of 2021?” like ours, but “when do you think our country or our town will start getting the vaccine – 2022? 2023? 2024?”
I am grateful to know that protection from this horrible virus is within reach for my family and me soon. But I can’t relax, knowing that a big portion of middle and low-income countries have no end in sight. They are still in the throes of the worst of the pandemic – hospitals full, more people getting sick and dying, fears of going grocery shopping or being unable to work, and no tangible shining light of hope.
As a member of NOW! I join in the appeals to vaccine producers to allow for greater distribution of the vaccine around the world. It needs to happen immediately.
Big Pharma must share knowledge and technology to end this pandemic
I know that positive efforts are underway through Covax and ever-continuing development of new vaccines. However, we cannot hope to keep up with the spread of COVID-19 without even more action to get the vaccine to everyone around the world and fast. The next steps must involve waiving intellectual property rights, sharing technology, and whatever it may take to end this humanitarian crisis. There are factories around the world ready and waiting to produce massive amounts of vaccine and make it available to ALL countries, not just the wealthiest countries, if they only had the authority and knowledge to do so.
I ask that Big Pharma executives take a moment to put yourself in the place of health care workers, families, teachers, and so many others that live in countries where currently there is no hope of receiving a COVID vaccine anytime soon. We ask you to put lives before profits by paving the way for others to produce your vaccines, even for a limited period until we are past the worst of the pandemic. Spreading the vaccine around the world quickly will not only save countless lives but will prevent the widespread development of deadly mutations of the coronavirus that pose a continuing threat, even to those already vaccinated.
We have all learned tough lessons in the past year during a pandemic we never dreamed would occur. We have suffered together. Now let’s demonstrate compassion, learn from our lessons, and heal together, stronger and wiser than ever.