Alyssa Milano: We Already Paid for the COVID Vaccine, With Our Taxes. Set it Free | Opinion

Back in April, I had COVID-19. I had never experienced this kind of sick. Everything hurt. It felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't keep food in. I lost my sense of smell. I was confused. I had a low-grade fever and terrible headaches. I thought I was dying. It felt like I was dying.

Months later, I have recovered but I am still having debilitating symptoms on some days. I have also been dealing with lingering symptoms like, vertigo, stomach abnormalities, irregular periods, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, zero short term memory, and general malaise. I would not wish this hell on anyone. While the virus doesn't discriminate, circumstances matter, and I know that I have been privileged to have top-rate medical assistance. Not everyone has that. But they should.

As the number of cases continue to skyrocket, I feel terrible for all the people going through what I went through – or worse.

An effective vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel and scientists are racing to deliver for us all. Just in the last few weeks, Pfizer and Moderna announced that they are having extraordinary preliminary success with their respective vaccines, reaching more than of 90 percent effectiveness, and others may be on a similar path. But these vaccines will have zero effectiveness for those who won't have access them or won't be able to afford them.

In the battle against this terrible disease, we must remember that no one anywhere is safe from COVID-19 until everyone everywhere is safe. Scientific breakthrough towards a vaccine is crucial, but just the first part of the equation. Equally important is making sure that every single person on this planet can get a vaccine as soon as possible.

Once in the White House, President-elect Biden will have tremendous power to help decide who gets access to protection from this virus, when and at what cost. That's why I joined more than 100 leaders from public health, faith-based, development, and labor organizations, former members of Congress and other artists to sign a public letter calling on President-elect Biden to make the upcoming COVID-19 vaccine a People's Vaccine: a global public good, freely and fairly available to all, prioritizing those most in need here at home and around the world.

Even after a vaccine is approved, it will take a lot of time and effort to produce the billions of doses needed for everyone on this planet. On its own, Moderna can only produce enough for less than 7 percent of the global population by the end of next year.

Worse yet, according to humanitarian organization Oxfam, the US and other rich countries, are already hoarding more than half of the vaccines to be developed by the companies with the leading five vaccine candidates. With only 4% of the world's population, the US has already called dibs on almost 50% of the Pfizer's total expected supply next year.

To protect everyone no matter their wealth or nationality, Pfizer, Moderna, and other corporations with the leading candidates for an effective COVID-19 vaccine must share their vaccine technology to enable billions of doses to be made as soon as possible at the lowest possible price so that everyone, everywhere can be protected.

The race toward a COVID-19 vaccine has already been funded largely by public funds. In fact, US taxpayers have already committed more than $10 billion in public money towards a COVID19- vaccine. That's your taxpayer dollars, not just corporate research and development budgets.

Since vaccines are largely funded by public funds, they must be a public good. That means patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly, and made available free of charge, to every individual, rich and poor alike. Lifesaving vaccines shouldn't be auctioned off to the highest bidder. In a global pandemic like COVID, corporations must put people over profits.

President-elect Biden can and must bring about a people's vaccine so our families are safe, so people can get back to work, so we can live our lives again. It's the most effective way to fight this pandemic, reopen our businesses and schools, protect Americans and our interests, and save lives here in the US and around the world.

No one should go through what I went through, especially if there's a way to prevent it. A COVID-19 vaccine must be a people's vaccine.

Alyssa Milano is the host of the Sorry Not Sorry podcast, a New York Times best-selling author, actor, activist and producer.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.