March 4, 2021

WHO Urges Vaccine Equity, Support for Health Workers

The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries and companies to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are distributed equitably and quickly, starting with health workers and those at highest risk for illness. WHO’s campaign for vaccine equity seeks to make sure that vaccines are being administered in every country by April 7, World Health Day. According to WHO, this goal is achievable through world leaders’ support of COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), the global initiative focused on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, and the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, the global collaboration to speed development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

WHO’s focus on vaccine equity is part of a year-long campaign intended to ensure that healthcare workers are “supported, protected, motivated and equipped to deliver safe health care at all times, not only during COVID-19.” In November, WHO designated 2021 as the International Year of Health and Care Workers.

Reports from CDC have analyzed the demographics of healthcare workers with COVID-19 in the U.S. and highlighted special risks faced by healthcare personnel working in long-term care settings. A report published by CDC in September found that healthcare workers who die from COVID-19 are more likely to be older, male, Asian, Black, or have an underlying medical condition than healthcare workers who survive the disease. The following month, a separate agency report found that healthcare workers in skilled nursing, assisted living, group home, and related settings worked more often while symptomatic for COVID-19 and were more likely to test positive for SARS-CoV-2, compared to healthcare workers in acute care settings.

Organizations and individuals who wish to support WHO’s campaign can sign its vaccine equity declaration. More information on WHO efforts to support healthcare workers is available on the organization’s website.