Almost a year ago, we witnessed the first recorded cases of COVID-19. Since then the virus has devastated communities, systems and economies. For much of the world, and especially vulnerable populations, these past 12 months have been filled with insecurity and hardship. Driven by the common goal of ending the worst pandemic in a century, there has been unprecedented collaboration between scientists to develop effective COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.

But innovations must be matched with commensurate investments and swift action to strengthen the systems needed to roll out safe and effective vaccines worldwide to billions of people. Without major investment in readiness, distribution and equitable access, COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics will remain out of reach for far too many people, particularly in communities already struggling to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

There have been promising signs of the kind of leadership necessary for an effective response.