Iman on the Importance of Vaccine Equity: 'We're Stronger When We Come Together and Share Resources'

The supermodel and CARE Global Advocate organized an open letter — signed by 70 influential artists and entertainers — that calls on world leaders to push for 70% of the population to be vaccinated by 2022

US-Somali fashion model Iman attends the amfAR Gala New York at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City on February 5, 2020

Iman is continuing her global activism work with a new initiative that calls for equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the Global Advocate of CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), the humanitarian and fashion industry icon, 66, spearheaded a new campaign backed by 70 influential artists and entertainers that calls on world leaders to push for 70% of the population to be vaccinated by 2022.

The goals of the initiative were outlined in an open letter published in the New York Times on Tuesday. It was signed by all 70 participates, including Iman, Connie Britton, Richard Gere, Tony Goldwyn, Anne Hathaway, Annie Lennox, Eva Longoria, Debra Messing, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Ciara, Russell Wilson and others.

In the letter, the famous activists emphasized the fact that "only 2% of people in low-income countries have received a single dose, leaving the world's most vulnerable to face COVID with no protection" and called on world leaders to help developing countries get the resources necessary to vaccinate their population.

Speaking about her role at CARE, Iman tells PEOPLE exclusively, "The Global Advocate role was specifically created for me back in 2019, and I've been honored ever since to continue to amplify and strengthen CARE's ongoing work, and ultimately, use my platform to fight for meaningful — and lasting — change."

"As a Somali refugee, I've felt drawn to helping advocate for human rights and the safety and security of people around the world. There's this very real and natural connection to the work CARE is doing and my existing passions."

covid vaccine
A medical professional giving a vaccine shot. Getty

She continues, "I became a refugee at age 16 and I am committed to bettering future generations of women especially those in developing nations. Without [non-governmental organizations] like CARE, my life trajectory would likely be very different and my role as a Global Advocate is how I pay it forward and express my sincere gratitude for the critical work the organization is doing around the globe."

Iman explains that coronavirus "disproportionately affects the most vulnerable" population, like "refugees and forcibly replaced" people who have already endured natural disasters and wars. "Now, they're facing this devastating pandemic," she says.

"We must think of future generations and ensure a global response aimed at recovery. Here, in the United States, we are fortunate to have the necessary resources and infrastructure readily available." the activist says. "I'm a firm believer in the dignity of all people and this pandemic has shown us that we're stronger, better, and healthier when we come together and share resources."

"It is a blessing and a privilege to not only have the opportunity to receive a vaccine but to have it be proven by science as safe and effective," she adds. "I urge those who are hesitant to see it as a chance to make a difference in the world by starting right here at home. Admittedly, there's a lot we took for granted prior to this devastating crisis but my hope is that we can all emerge with a stronger sense of unity, gratitude and humanity."

When asked about another pressing issue surrounding the pandemic — Americans getting booster shots before the vaccine is distributed globally, as new research indicates vaccine effectiveness may wear off over time — Iman says she "encourages anyone who has access to the vaccine to take full advantage."

"While our hope is that campaigns like this (70 for 70) will enable us to begin widely distributing vaccines globally and lessen the equity gap, ultimately, the more vaccines in people's arms, the better," she shares.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the CDC, WHO and local public health departments.PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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