'Health isn't a luxury': 2022 must be year we unite over COVID-19, says WHO's Margaret Harris
The Agenda



The pandemic once again dominated 2021. Despite progress with first, second and booster jabs, the Omicron variant has led to further uncertainty for us all. But as we move into 2022, is there more optimism about the next 12 months? One of the people who is best placed to answer that question is Margaret Harris from the World Health Organization. 


Margaret Harris was born and raised in Australia and is now based in Geneva working at the World Health Organization. Margaret studied medicine at the University of Sydney, law at the University of Hong Kong and later completed a Master's degree in International Public Health at the University of Sydney.  She has spent most of her adult working life in Asia, Africa and Europe and has worked at the WHO for more than a decade. Harris has mostly focused on infectious disease outbreaks such as polio, Ebola, Yellow Fever, Zika Virus, MERS and now COVID-19. 


Harris told Stephen we have used politics to divide us rather than bring us together, "2022 really needs to be the year we come together against this." 

She is confident of achieving the goal of a 70 percent vaccination rate world-wide. "If you do the numbers, the rich countries, the wealthy, well-resourced countries have vaccinated such vast numbers of people. We could technically be at 70 percent quickly, but we want 70 percent of every country."

But vaccine waste is another challenge. It happens in every country she warned, "Most wastage is where you've not been able to plan effectively in reasonable time." For instance, Nigeria has received vaccines, but with a very short shelf life, and they end up having to destroy those vaccines because they haven't had the planning and the populations ready to be able to vaccinate in the time left.  

Harris says the COVAX system has been trying to fill the gap. It advises countries on what they're getting so they can distribute those supplies to where they're needed and get the staff and vaccine recipients ready so it can all happen as quickly as possible. 


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