"The pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere," reads an open letter from UNICEF, signed by Billie Eilish, Pink, Selena Gomez and other celebs

By Glenn Garner
June 08, 2021 03:56 PM
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Billie Eilish, Pink, Selena Gomez
Credit: Amy Sussman/Getty; Karwai Tang/WireImage; Steve Granitz/WireImage

As the United States approaches President Joe Biden's target of partially vaccinating 70% of adults by July 4, COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on some of the most vulnerable countries.

Billie Eilish, Pink, Selena Gomez and others have signed UNICEF's open letter, urging world leaders to step up and donate COVID-19 vaccines where they are needed most, ahead of this weekend's G7 summit in the UK. "The pandemic will not be over anywhere until it is over everywhere, and that means getting vaccines to every country, as quickly and equitably as possible," the letter reads.

Other celebs that have signed the letter include Whoopi Goldberg, Katy Perry, Orlando Bloom, David Beckham, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Ewan McGregor, Lucy Liu, Olivia Colman, Liam Neeson, Gemma Chan, Alyssa Milano, Liam Payne, Claudia Schiffer, Téa Leoni and Sofia Carson.

Although some countries have pledged to donate vaccines later this year, there is an urgent need now. The letter notes that, although UNICEF is already on the ground delivering doses via the international vaccine equity initiative COVAX, they're about 190 million doses short of what is needed.

"The world has spent a year and a half battling the COVID-19 pandemic, but the virus is still spreading in many countries and producing new variants with the potential to put us all back where we started," the letter states. "This means more school closures, more healthcare disruptions and greater economic fallout - threatening the futures of families and children everywhere."

Lily Caprani, UNICEF's vaccine lead, pointed out the global inequity surrounding the pandemic and how the world's wealthiest nations have begun vaccinating low-risk children and teenagers, instead of donating surplus. Meanwhile, less affluent countries have had to dispose of expired vaccines that they were not able to use in time.

"At some point, no doubt, we will need to vaccinate under-18s," Caprani told BBC. "But the priority at this moment has to be making sure that all of the vulnerable and priority groups around the world get vaccines."

UNICEF forecasts that G7 countries could donate 20% of their vaccines between June and August without delaying their vaccination efforts, which would provide more than 150 million doses for countries in need. As many as 1 billion doses could be available for donation by the end of the year.

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"The hopes of the world rest on your shoulders. Together, you must rise to this challenge," the letter concludes. "Let's build a healthier, brighter and fairer future for every child and for everyone."

The issue particularly hits home for Chopra Jonas, whose native India has been disproportionately impacted. "A clear solution to this is G7 countries committing to sharing their surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses immediately with the countries whose health workers and vulnerable populations need them the most," she wrote in a statement.

India Covid crisis
Credit: Anindito Mukherjee/Getty

"That's exactly why I've joined my fellow UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors in signing this letter, urgently asking G7 leaders to make this commitment at the UK summit this week, to keep families and children everywhere safe from COVID-19," Chopra Jonas added.