The European Union and the World Health Organization teamed with the international advocacy organization Global Citizen on Tuesday to host a virtual panel discussion on global recovery of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The webcast included leaders from the United States and the African Union, as well as actors and musicians seeking to solicit donations from organizations and individuals. The effort aims to set the stage for the world to bounce back from the pandemic, addressing issues such as vaccine equity, world hunger, the climate crisis and international aid.
In her comments, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed a call by French President Emmanuel Macron's to donate vaccines to health care workers in Africa.
"Vaccines must reach all corners of the planet as soon as possible," she said.
The EU has contributed an additional $606.3 million to the WHO-backed COVAX vaccine cooperative program to supply COVID-19 shots to emerging economies, doubling the bloc's contribution. Last week, the Biden administration pledged $4 billion to the program.
U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry made comments from his office in Washington, saying the recovery discussion represents a "bold plan of action" to get the world through and beyond the pandemic. He said protecting the planet should be part of that plan.
South African President and African Union chairman Cyril Ramaphosa urged wealthy countries to donate 5% of their vaccine supplies to needy countries, particularly on the African continent.
Grammy Award-winning American singer-songwriter Billie Eilish said the pandemic forced her to cancel a world tour after just three shows last year. But she said the pandemic has demonstrated how quickly people adapt. She threw her support behind vaccine equity and urged others to do the same.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also talked about vaccine equity, saying that just two countries account for half of the 210 million doses administered so far in the world.