Jennifer Lopez to headline VAX Live concert to boost Covid jabs in poorest nations

15:31pm, Tue 13 Apr 2021
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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 organisation has announced the musical event – VAX Live: The Concert To Reunite The World – with the goal of enlisting corporations and philanthropists to raise 22 billion dollars (£16 billion) for global vaccinations.

The concert, which airs on May 8 on US networks ABC, CBS and Fox as well as on iHeartMedia radio stations and YouTube, will also showcase 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, Global Citizen chief executive Hugh Evans highlighted the magnitude of the problem his organisation aims to address.

“There are 27 million healthcare workers globally who don’t have access to the vaccine,” Mr 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 programme is among a growing web of non-profit organisations and activists that are seeking to achieve wider, more equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

As of this month, Mr 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 non-profit, The ONE Campaign, said last month.

“The United States has secured over 550 million excess doses that could be used to help end the global pandemic faster.”

A week later, Gayle Smith, The ONE Campaign’s president and chief executive, was selected by the Biden administration for the new State Department position of co-ordinator of global Covid response and health security.

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,” Mr Evans said.

“Everything else is academic until we can get it under control.”

The advocacy organisation 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 dollars (£1.1 billion) in commitments from the Group of Seven industrialised democracies.

Eventually, though, it recognised 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,” Mr 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.

By June, the US government will have 45 million doses in excess of their entire population being vaccinated just sitting there in cold storage and warehouses

The event is also intended to raise commitments for the billions of dollars that are needed to send two billion vaccine doses, in addition to Covid-19 tests, to the world’s poorest countries by the year’s end.

“This is not ‘Mission Accomplished’,” Mr 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 healthcare 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 US government will have 45 million doses in excess of their entire population being vaccinated just sitting there in cold storage and warehouses,” Mr Evans said.

“That seems absolutely insane for something that’s for the common good to be sitting in cold storage.”

On Tuesday, Global Citizen also launched its Vax Because initiative to encourage people to get vaccinated when they can.

The programme will include advertising developed by The Ad Council, YouTube and others to spark conversations among those who are hesitant about being vaccinated.

“If people will see their friends and relatives taking it, they’re far more likely to take it,” Mr Evans said.

“If people think about what taking the vaccine actually does in terms of reuniting their friends and family, they’re far more likely to take it.”

To Mr Evans, Gomez is an ideal host to press those points to the people who needed to hear them the most.

“Selena Gomez is obviously an incredible leader in her own right,” he said.

“She has one of the largest social followings on the planet, and she also is a true leader among young people and in the Latinx community.”

This is a historic moment to encourage people around the world to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them

Gomez, for her part, said she felt honoured to be chosen.

“This is a historic moment to encourage people around the world to take the Covid-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, call on world leaders to share vaccine doses equitably and to bring people together for a night of music in a way that hasn’t felt possible in the past year,” the Lose You To Love Me singer said in a statement.

“I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

For years, Global Citizen has used the power of celebrities’ connections with their fans to create a movement of “collective action” that shows government leaders how popular certain programmes can be.

Its annual Global Citizen Festivals in Central Park have furthered its goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 with the help of fans of Beyonce or Coldplay or Stevie Wonder speaking out to world leaders on social media.

The group hopes to do it again with VAX Live.

“I think growing up, we were all taught what I would call ‘the Sally Struthers view of charity – if I just give a few dollars here and there, that will make a difference’,” Mr Evans said.

“Not only is that methodology not scalable, but it’s really just crumbs off the table. It’s not going to give anyone a meal. It’s not going to build any long-term sustainability. We believe in the power of ‘collective action’ because we know that we’re trying to change the systems that keep people poor.”

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