Then in April I had COVID-19, I had never experienced this kind of disease before. Everything hurt. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I could not breathe. I couldn’t keep the food in. I lost my sense of smell. I was confused. I had a slight fever and a terrible headache. I thought I was dying. It felt like I was dying.
Several months later I recovered, but on some days I still have debilitating symptoms. I also had to deal with persistent symptoms such as dizziness, stomach anomalies, irregular periods, palpitations, shortness of breath, zero short-term memory and general malaise. I would not wish this hell on anyone. Although the virus is not discriminatory, circumstances play a role and I know that I have had the privilege of receiving first class medical care. Not everyone has. But they should.
As the number of cases continues to skyrocket, I feel terrible for all those people who have had to go through what I have gone through – or worse.
An effective vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel, and scientists are racing to save us all. Just in recent weeks, Pfizer and Moderna announced that their respective vaccines are showing extraordinary preliminary results and have achieved more than 90 percent efficacy, and others may be on a similar path. But these vaccines will not be effective for those who do not have access to them or cannot afford them.
In the fight against this terrible disease, we must remember that no one anywhere is safe from COVID-19 until everyone everywhere is safe. The scientific breakthrough to a vaccine is crucial, but only the first part of the equation. It is equally important to ensure that every single person on this planet can receive a vaccine as soon as possible.
Once in the White House, President-elect Biden will have enormous power to help decide who gets access to protection against this virus, when and at what cost. That’s why I, along with more than 100 leaders from public health, faith, development and labor organizations, former Congressmen and other artists, have signed a public letter calling on President-elect Biden to make the upcoming COVID 19 vaccine a people’s vaccine: a global public good, available freely and fairly to all, with priority given to those most in need here at home and around the world.
Even after a vaccine is approved, it will take a lot of time and effort to produce the billions of doses needed for all the people on this planet. By the end of next year, Moderna alone can only produce enough for less than 7 percent of the world’s population.
Worse still, according to the humanitarian organization Oxfam, the U.S. and other rich countries already hoard more than half of the vaccines to be developed by the companies with the five leading vaccine candidates. Since the U.S. represents only 4% of the world’s population, it has already reserved nearly 50% of Pfizer’s total shipments expected for next year.
To protect all people regardless of wealth or nationality, Pfizer, Moderna and other companies with the leading candidates for an effective COVID 19 vaccine must share their vaccine technology to produce billions of doses at the lowest possible cost as quickly as possible to protect all people everywhere.
The race for a vaccine against COVID-19 has already been largely funded by the public purse. In fact, U.S. taxpayers have already provided more than $10 billion in public funding for a COVID19 vaccine. These are the dollars of your taxpayers, not just the research and development budgets of companies.
Because vaccines are largely funded by public money, they must be a public good. That means: patent-free, mass-produced, fairly distributed and available free of charge to every individual, rich or poor. Lifesaving vaccines should not be auctioned off to the highest bidder. In a global pandemic like the COVID pandemic, companies must put people above profits.
President-elect Biden can and must launch a vaccine for people so that our families are safe, so that people can go back to work, so that we can live our lives again. It is the most effective way to fight this pandemic, to reopen our businesses and schools, to protect Americans and our interests, and to save lives here in the United States and around the world.
No one should go through what I have gone through, especially if there is a way to prevent it. A vaccine against COVID-19 must be a vaccine for the people.
Alyssa Milano is the host of the podcast Sorry Not Sorry, a bestselling author, actress, activist and producer for the New York Times.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author.