The ONE Campaign, co-founded by Bono, is launching a new animated series to raise awareness about making coronavirus vaccines available everywhere

By Jason Duaine Hahn
March 25, 2021 09:00 AM
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David Oyelowo has stepped into the shoes of a variety of characters over his career, but the British-born actor likely never thought he'd play an actual coronavirus particle.

The 44-year-old star recently lent his talents to a new animated series from the ONE Campaign, a global health and anti-poverty organization co-founded by U2 frontman Bono. The series, called Pandemica, aims to raise awareness around the lack of coronavirus vaccine availability for many of the world's countries.

Oyelowo — who has previously collaborated with The ONE Campaign to address issues such as poverty, gender inequality, education and healthcare — voices two characters in the series. In one of Pandemica's seven episodes, which run about 30 seconds each, Oyelowo plays one of three mountaineers who are taken by surprise when they're given a package with only two vaccines in it.

"They're really great, very short clips that hopefully continue to spread awareness about how careful we need to be with this virus and how much we need to embrace the vaccine," Oyelowo, who famously played Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, tells PEOPLE.

In another clip, Oyelowo plays a COVID-19 particle leading an army that attacks a group of people enjoying their time outdoors. The series also features voice work from Patrick Adams, Bono, Penélope Cruz, Nick Kroll, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Sheen, Wanda Sykes and others. (Oyelowo says his lines were recorded from a phone from the safety of his home — no traveling necessary.)

As a part of their focus to get more vaccines to low-income countries, the ONE Campaign's website features an open letter to President Joe Biden encouraging him to allow the country to share any surplus of vaccines with the world. (Biden has said that once Americans are vaccinated, a surplus will be shared with the rest of the world.)

In mid February, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said more than 130 countries had not received a single vaccine. At that point, 75 percent of all coronavirus vaccines had been administered by just 10 countries, he added.

As of Wednesday, "less than 1% of doses administered globally have gone to people in low-income countries, while a handful of wealthy countries have enough vaccines to inoculate their entire populations and still have more than 1 billion doses left over," the ONE Campaign said.

The ONE Campaign is inviting people to sign a petition to support their efforts.

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Along with this goal, Oyelowo hopes Pandemica will help alleviate skepticism around vaccines for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable taking one yet.

"I've had my skepticism as well. I've had my questions. I made the choice to approach high-level health care professionals with my questions, and a lot of my skepticism and fear has been allayed by science, by the expertise, by the research and by the results," says Oyelowo, who premiered his directorial debut, The Water Man, in 2020. "And I know, particularly in Black and brown communities, where we've had very, very challenging histories around how we've been treated, from a healthcare point of view, there's a high level of distrust. And so, understandably, there's a lot of skepticism in and amongst those communities."

As Oyelowo says, in order for the world to return to some semblance of normalcy, it's important to make sure everyone gets involved in the effort.

"This is something that affects everyone," he says. "I understand people who may be shy of talking about it, because they may have their own questions as well."

"But this has affected all of humanity," Oyelowo adds. "I consider it a duty to do my part."

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