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Ensuring vaccine justice for countries in the Global South: A Q&A with Rosalind McKenna

January 31, 2022

In October 2021, the Global Alliance of Foundations issued an open letter to the leaders of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund calling for measures to ensure a fair and equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Headshot_McKenna_Rosalind_Open_SocietyIn their letter, the foundation leaders argued that the pandemic has “divided the world in two.” Wealthy nations in the Global North have broad access to vaccines that not only reduce the number of deaths due to the virus and its variants but also help stave off economic catastrophe. In the Global South, however, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) struggle to gain access to enough of the life-saving vaccines and the funding needed to support their distribution.

The alliance advocated for two primary objectives: to achieve the World Health Organization’s vaccination target of at least 40 percent of the population in LMICs by the end of 2021—a goal that was not met—and 70 percent by mid-2022, and to spur high-income countries to reallocate at least $100 billion in recycled Special Drawing Rights for LMICs and commit to a $100 billion replenishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association fund in support of pandemic response and economic recovery in the poorest nations.

PND asked Rosalind McKenna, a special advisor to the Open Society Foundations, a founding member of the Global Alliance of Foundations, about vaccine equity and the role that philanthropic organizations must play to help end the disparities while the world works to end the pandemic.

Philanthropy News Digest: What is the Global Alliance of Foundations, and what is its role in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic?

Rosalind McKenna: The alliance brings together leading philanthropies from around the world that share the goals of urgently accelerating COVID-19 vaccine access globally and ensuring a global economic recovery. The Aliko Dangote Foundation, Archewell Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Chaudhary Foundation in Nepal, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Ford Foundation, Fundación Saldarriaga Concha in Colombia, Kagiso Trust in South Africa, Mastercard Foundation, Mo Ibrahim Foundation, Open Society Foundations, OppGen Philanthropies, Rockefeller Foundation, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation are some of the foundations collaborating to date, and they are inviting other philanthropies to join their efforts.

These foundations recognize that their voice and impact are stronger together. With their international networks and experience in advancing global health and economic justice and supporting civil society, they can catalyze more funding, identify and address critical gaps, and advocate collectively and strongly for bold, global goals.

Philanthropic leaders recognize the need for structural solutions, not charity, to ensure vaccine justice for countries in the Global South. Justice means supporting low- and middle-income countries to develop the capacity to make their own vaccines and medicines for COVID and for future pandemics. Justice means ensuring low-income countries benefit from economic stimulus like that which helped wealthy nations weather the economic storm caused by COVID.

In addition to the individual efforts of specific foundations, members of the alliance have also collaborated to provide surge funding to advocacy and campaigning efforts like those of the ONE Campaign....

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