NEW YORK (AP) — Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez, Global Citizen is unveiling an ambitious campaign to help medical workers in the world’s poorest countries quickly receive COVID-19 vaccines.
The anti-poverty organization is announcing the musical event — “VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World” — with the goal of enlisting corporations and philanthropists to raise $22 billion for global vaccinations. The concert, which airs May 8 on ABC, CBS and FOX as well as on iHeartMedia radio stations and YouTube, will also showcase the Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and H.E.R.
The acts will be recorded at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Ahead of the event, Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, highlighted the magnitude of the problem his organization aims to address.
“There are 27 million healthcare workers globally who don’t have access to the vaccine,” Evans told The Associated Press. “I’m 38 years old, and it’s not ethical for me to have access to the vaccine before these heroic first responders and community health workers. So we need governments to start urgently donating those doses.”
The Global Citizen program is among of a growing web of nonprofits and activists that are seeking to achieve wider, more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. As of this month, Evans said, 60 nations had still not yet received any COVID-19 vaccines.
“Low-income countries not only need this welcome fundraising effort; they need access to COVID-19 vaccine doses,” Tom Hart, the North American executive director of another nonprofit, The ONE Campaign, said last month about the overall drive for donations. “The United States has secured over 550 million excess doses that could be used to help end the global pandemic faster.”
Global Citizen, which normally focuses on fighting severe poverty, became involved with COVID-19 vaccines out of what it calls necessity.
“We can’t get back to ending extreme poverty while 150 million people have been pushed back into extreme poverty this year due to the pandemic,” Evans said. “Everything else is academic until we can get it under control.”
The advocacy organization last year developed what it calls “ A Recovery Plan for the World,” which it hopes will simultaneously address COVID-19, the climate crisis, hunger and education issues, as well as racial equity. Under that plan, Global Citizen secured $1.5 billion in commitments from the Group of Seven industrialized democracies. Eventually, though, it recognized that greater awareness and funding were needed.
“We decided we needed to bring the world together again with a global event that will unite world leaders, artists, philanthropists and CEOs,” Evans said.
As he described it, “VAX Live” will be the first globally televised effort to lobby world leaders to help achieve more equitable vaccine distribution. The event is also intended to raise commitments for the billions of dollars that are needed to send 2 billion vaccine doses, in addition to COVID-19 tests, to the world’s poorest countries by year’s end. However, even if Global Citizen raises enough money, it will still need wealthier nations who continue to stockpile vaccines to let the drugs’ manufacturers prioritize poorer nations as customers.
“This is not ‘Mission Accomplished’,” Evans said. “But there is light at the end of the tunnel if we can ensure that there is equitable distribution of the vaccine.”
Global Citizen wants the health care workers in every country in the world to receive a vaccine by the end of 2021, a year ahead of current plans.
“By June, the U.S. government will have 45 million doses in excess of their entire population being vaccinated just sitting there in cold storage and warehouses,” Evans said. “That seems absolutely insane for something that’s for the common good to be sitting in cold storage.”