One year ago, when we first learned that a mysterious virus was spreading around the world, we could hardly imagine that COVID-19 would claim more than 2.6 million lives and counting. The dreadful months that followed were filled with uncertainty, economic devastation and unspeakable loss.
One year later, we begin to see small glimmers of hope. President Biden and his administration have wasted no time marshaling the power of government to confront this public health disaster. Vaccine production is on the rise and rollout continues to improve. I wrote earlier about the importance of vaccine equity, but it bears repeating. Until we ensure that everyone in the United States has access to the vaccine, including residents in urban, rural and remote areas, we will not recover from this pandemic.
The same applies around the globe. I’m pleased to see that the world is waking up to the importance of vaccine equity, with the World Health Organization (WHO) leading the way. In February, WHO welcomed new commitments from France, Germany, the UK, Northern Ireland and the United States to its COVAX program, which is the global mechanism best positioned to deliver vaccines to the world.
In addition, thousands of people and hundreds of organizations have signed a vaccine equity declaration calling on governments and manufacturers to speed up regulatory processes, boost manufacturing by sharing expertise and technology, and ensure that doses are shared fairly.
The celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8 brings into stark relief COVID’s impact on women and women’s roles around the world. As the United Nations notes, women are bearing the brunt of the economic and social fallout of this pandemic. Not only do they face a higher risk of contracting coronavirus, they also grapple with lower earnings, fewer savings, less access to protections, dual burdens of unpaid care and domestic work, and greater single-parent responsibilities.
The impact on nurses and health care workers – the majority of whom are women – is especially catastrophic. COVID-19 has put nurses under enormous pressure, with a significant number opting to leave the profession. An International Council of Nurses (ICN) survey reveals that heavy workloads, insufficient resources, burnout and stress are the main factors driving the exodus. The ICN predicts that, even if governments invest in nursing education and training now, it will take years to build back the current workforce of experienced registered nurses. Up to 13 million new nurses will be needed to fill the global nursing gap in the near future.
What can we do right now to help forge positive change for women? Take inspiration from the organizers of International Women’s Day, who encourage us to celebrate women’s social, cultural, economic and political achievements – not just for one day but every day throughout the coming year.
Here are some ways to get involved:
You can find additional ideas, plus more than 500 International Women’s Day events worldwide, here.