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UN Chief Calls On World’s Leading Businesses To Ramp Up Efforts To Urgently Accelerate Access To COVID-19 Vaccines

United Nations Secretary-General today called on some of the world’s leading philanthropists and business leaders to urgently help to ramp up critical global efforts to ensure vaccine equity, and join the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed and upended countless lives and livelihoods over the last 18 months.

“We need global companies to mobilize on a global scale to beat this pandemic,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a high-level virtual roundtable hosted by the UN Verified initiative, the IKEA Foundation and Purpose — a social impact agency that works with the United Nations on the Verified initiative which was established in May 2020 to curb COVID-19 misinformation, and promote vaccine equity.

"Your efforts are absolutely critical,” he added, pointing out the private sector’s central role “in every breakthrough since the start of the pandemic: on vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, devices and data.”

Mr. Guterres asked the roundtable participants to make a difference in three key ways – by advocating for vaccine equity, by using their communications platforms to share accurate health information, and by donating or funding critical services and resources.

His call comes at a critical time as COVAX, the world’s largest vaccine equity mechanism, lacks significant funding to meet its goal of vaccinating at least a third of the population of 192 participating countries and economies in order to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

In the biggest vaccine rollout in history, COVAX – which is led by the World Health Organization (WHO), GAVI and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI), in partnership with UNICEF -- has so far reached 126 countries with more than 70 million doses of vaccines since February.

The doses, however, are barely sufficient to cover 1 per cent of the combined population of those countries, reports WHO. Today, just ten countries have administered more than 75 per cent of all vaccine doses, while in poorer countries even health workers and people with underlying conditions cannot access them.

“We know that time is short. We're already behind. We don't have time to talk; we have to take action - now,” said Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation. “Let’s find a way to come together, create connections, and use this as a launching pad to create that radical collaboration so we can find ways to get the vaccines to the people who need it, everywhere.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming reiterated the private sector’s critical role in helping to overcome the vaccine gap between rich and poor countries.

“The time to help is right now,” said Ms. Fleming. “We count on the world’s corporate and philanthropic leaders to provide technology and expertise, political advocacy and funding support to ensure that everyone, everywhere, has access to a vaccine.”

Business leaders, humanitarians, and philanthropists who attended the roundtable included the Capgemini Group, Capgemini Invent, GAVI, IKEA Foundation, Imagine, Ingka Group & IKEA, Luminate Group, Purpose, Skoll, The Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Uber, Unilever, and the WHO Foundation.

The United Nations has recently declared support for the WHO Foundation's Go Give One which is calling on everyone, everywhere to help play their part in funding the vaccine distribution programme.

“Now is the time for people to power vaccine supply, and businesses can help by giving the opportunity to their employees and customers through the Go Give One campaign,” said Anil Soni, CEO of the WHO Foundation. “We're calling on individuals to help end the pandemic, together making sure we get vaccines to everyone everywhere.”

The roundtable event was part of the UN Verified global communications campaign, #OnlyTogether which aims to advance fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

"Communication is the key to ensuring we stay connected,” said Jeremy Heimans, the CEO and Co-Founder of Purpose. “This pandemic has highlighted the importance of talking, meeting and coming together like never before. In a hyper-connected world, sharing information can be the difference between life or death.”

"By working together - communicating accurate, factual information around COVID-19, we have the power and privilege to use our influence in supporting not only our friends and families, but people in vulnerable communities who need our help along the way."

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