Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, are not only humbled to be part of this year’s TIME 100, but to also write in praise of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for the publication’s annual list of Most Influential people.
Since becoming the Director-General of the World Trade Organization in March, Okonjo-Iweala has astutely been hailed for the groundbreaking nature of her appointment to the role; the first woman and the first African to assume the position. What further sets her apart, and makes her leadership all the more trailblazing, is her ability to see the COVID-19 pandemic as a crisis with significant implications for both health and economic security. To tackle it, she has encouraged governments, trade organizations, and individuals to think of vaccine distribution and equity as inextricable from economic recovery.
The ripple effects of the pandemic are vast: COVID-19 has affected the livelihoods of everyday people in so many ways: the loss of loved ones, increased food poverty, gender equity setbacks, stalled economic development, and more. While some countries may believe they’re emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, because of the interconnected nature of our global economy, it is only when every person — in every country — has access to the vaccine that we can fully begin to rebuild worldwide health, security, and prosperity.
To do so, Okonjo-Iweala — who brings a 25-year career at the World Bank, two terms as Finance Minister of Nigeria, and a role as Chair of the Board of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to her current position — is acting swiftly, working to improve coordination, supply chains, and the flexibility of trade rules in order to get COVID-19 vaccines to as many people as possible — and to every nation.
The Duke and Duchess and Okonjo-Iweala have a shared and urgent mission to achieve worldwide vaccine equity. Vaccine equity means that we need a just, fair, and humanitarian approach to getting every corner of the world equal access to the vaccine.
Take into consideration:
- 5.7 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered globally so far, with a majority of these doses given in a small number of developed countries; yet as of today, less than 2 percent of people in developing countries have received at least one dose.
- New COVID-19 variants, such as the Delta variant, emerge from unvaccinated populations. No nation on earth will be protected from these variants until there is vaccine equity.
- Developed nations could have as many as 1.7 billion excess and unused vaccine doses this year alone, while other countries struggle to even vaccinate their frontline healthcare workers, let alone general populations
Vaccine equity means reversing these trends and creating a level-playing field for all nations, all communities, and all families.
The Duke and Duchess are honored to be Ngozi’s partner in pursuing that goal and are proud to be listed alongside her on this year’s TIME 100.