The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), an organization comprised of the world’s leading international respiratory societies, including founding member the American Thoracic Society, calls for urgent access to affordable COVID-19 vaccines globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than 72 million people worldwide and resulted in more than 1.6 million deaths to date. No country has been spared, and throughout the world this pandemic has placed a huge burden on health systems and on economies. Many countries are now experiencing a second wave of infections, which are more severe than the first initial wave. The elderly and those with underlying vulnerabilities, including diabetes, chronic lung or heart disease, hypertension, obesity, or immunosuppression are at higher risk for developing severe disease.
Incredibly, less than a year after the start of the pandemic, effective, safe vaccines are now being approved for emergency use, and some countries have already started vaccinating their citizens. The rapid development and authorization of these vaccines must be accompanied by close monitoring for further guidance and optimal use. However, the rollout of vaccines is currently predominantly in high-income countries. There is an urgent need for affordable vaccines to be made available in low- and middle-income countries, especially as there may be limited access to health care and to life-saving supportive therapy, including oxygen, in these settings.
“Now is a critical time in the fight against COVID-19. We need to ensure affordable, equitable access, transparency, and fair distribution of approved vaccines to protect people in all countries,” said Stephanie Levine, MD President of FIRS. “This pandemic has affected people around the world, and we now need a global effort to ensure that all countries can access preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic measures to beat it.”
FIRS is comprised of: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).
FIRS’s goal is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health globally through the combined work of its more than 100,000 members.