As India battles a devastating second wave of COVID-19 cases and vaccination rates remain below 1 percent in many parts of the world, it's clear that the fight to end the pandemic is far from over. That's why Jen Rubio, cofounder and CEO of Away, and her partner, Slack founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield, pledged $25 million to support UNICEF's work procuring and delivering COVID-19 vaccine doses to low- and middle-income countries through the COVAX initiative — and went on national television to challenge other tech and business leaders to donate as well.
"While there's a lot of optimism in the U.S. around vaccinations, such a small percentage of the global population has been vaccinated," Rubio told Good Morning America anchor George Stephanopoulos on April 28. "There's just no way to eradicate this virus if vaccine inequity exists."
COVID-19 is still the single biggest threat to the lives, livelihoods, health, opportunities & economies of people around the world.— Stewart Butterfield (@stewart) April 28, 2021
@jennifer & I are donating $25M to @UNICEF/@UNICEFUSA to accelerate their global vaccination programs: https://t.co/jKeNpwJbgT
Here’s why (--):
"Those of us in global development understand how important vaccines are, but this year, every single person on the planet knows it," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said on April 26 at an event marking the start of World Immunization Week. "Over the past few months, we have repeatedly expressed our deep concern about the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.... This is not only unfair, it is also unwise, because a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere, especially with the worrying rise in variants."
Those of us in global development understand how important vaccines are, but this year, every single person on the planet knows it. — UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore
In the largest vaccine delivery operation in history, the COVAX Facility — with UNICEF leading on procurement and supply — will ship 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 180 countries in 2021, including 1.2 billion doses to low- and lower-middle income countries. The first tranche of vaccine doses arrived in Ghana on February 24; since then COVAX has delivered more than 53 million vaccine doses to 121 participating countries.
"This is a global problem and it requires a global solution, " Butterfield said in the GMA interview. "I'm not sure if people realize what's at stake. Things are bad and they could get significantly worse. What we've seen in India can happen elsewhere in the world. UNICEF is one of the few organizations in the world that has the kind of reach — they already deliver 2 billion immunization vaccinations per year. They vaccinate 45 percent of the world's children. They have the distribution network."
"UNICEF's job is to turn vaccines into vaccinations, to get shots in arms," said Butterfield. "And they're the best in the world."
Top photo: UNICEF vaccine specialist Dr. Epa Kouacou celebrates the arrival of a shipment of COVAX COVID-19 vaccine doses in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire on February 26, 2021. Since February, the COVAX initiative — with UNICEF leading on procurement and supply — has shipped more than 53 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to 121 countries. © UNICEF/UN0422701/COVAX/Miléquêm Diarassouba