"Eventually when the privileged decide that it's time to save the poor people, then we will get the vaccine"
Nine out of 10 people in poor countries are unlikely to receive a COVID-19 vaccine this year as the world’s richest nations snap up a majority of the shots, according to The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a network of organizations including Amnesty International, Global Justice Now and Oxfam. While such a statement makes for an attention-grabbing headline, there’s much more to the situation than meets the eye as there is a possibility of no vaccine for poorer
Major vaccine developers estimated that they could produce up to 5.3 billion doses of their vaccinations in 2021. As current tests indicate that these require two separate doses to be considered effective, the total amount produced could be enough for a little over a third of the world’s 7.6 billion people.
With that comes a question of how vaccinations are assigned to different countries.
Is there a vaccine hoarding?
Many affluent nations have rushed to buy up their share, triggering accusations of ignoring the countries that can’t afford to do the same.
Critics say they have enough doses to vaccinate their entire population multiple times, that richer countries are blocking access for poorer ones, and vaccination producers are putting profits over health. Rich nations, representing just 14% of the world’s population, have reportedly bought up 53% of all the most promising vaccines so far, giving wealthier nations the capacity to vaccinate their entire populations three times over.
As an example: Canada tops the chart of countries that have access to enough doses to vaccinate their population five times over, according to The People’s Vaccine Alliance. This really is an unacceptable and disappointing scenario.
What WHO has to say?
Speaking at a WHO executive board session on Monday, Dr Tedros said, "I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure - and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world's poorest countries."
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was not fair for younger, healthy people in richer nations to get injections before vulnerable people in poorer states. He said over 39 million vaccine doses had been given in 49 richer states - but one poor nation had only 25 doses.
So far, China, India, Russia, the UK and the US have all developed Covid vaccines, with others being made by multinational teams - like the American-German Pfizer vaccine. Almost all of these nations have prioritised distribution to their own populations.
How much delay can be expected?
According to Duke Global Health Innovation center- “Current models predict that there will not be enough vaccines to cover the world's population until 2023 or 2024”. Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, Anna Marriott, echoes this, "unless something changes dramatically, billions of people around the world will not receive a safe and effective vaccine for COVID-19 for years to come”.
"Eventually when the privileged decide that it's time to save the poor people, then we will get the vaccine"- this remark of Ms. Chingandu, working in HIV prevention in Zimbabwe, shows the brutal face of the elite society with how much poor really have to suffer.
COVAX- a hope:
While poorer countries don’t have such easy access to vaccines, they haven't been brushed aside entirely, so affluent countries can get vaccines first. Efforts are being made to ensure everyone can get access.
COVAX- Co-led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the World Health Organization- aims to accelerate the development and manufacture of COVID-19 vaccines and guarantee fair and equitable access around the world.
So far, more than 180 countries have signed up to the COVAX initiative, which allows Ninety-two countries - all of them low or middle-income - to have their vaccines paid for by a fund sponsored by donors. COVAX aims to provide 2 billion doses by the end of 2021 for high-risk populations. Long term, its goal is to provide funded countries with enough doses to cover 20% of their population, while self-financing countries can purchase different levels of population coverage.
The European Union has also announced that it will contribute €500 million ($605 million) in grant funding to support the COVAX Facility to secure access to future COVID-19 vaccines in low and middle-income countries.
Individual efforts by poorer nations:
Although Mexico is a big supporter of COVAX scheme and will buy vaccines through it. But the country's chief vaccine negotiator, Martha Delgado, said- 20% won't be enough to stop Mexico's soaring rates of Covid-19. That’s why she's working hard to also secure vaccines by other means. Any delay is the difference between life and death-"These months are crucial”, as she said.
In what she described as an iconic moment, her team secured deals directly with three vaccine companies. The team managed to secure a small number of doses of the much-coveted Pfizer vaccine - the first to be administered outside of trials. On Friday, Mexico's regulator approved the vaccine for emergency use and it will roll out this month.
But as per her- there are other countries in the Latin-American region that don't have enough money to buy vaccines right now and they are not really guaranteed access. For many countries COVAX is the only current solution.
Like Mexico, Pakistan has been in talks with every vaccine manufacturer. As per Faisal Sultan, the special assistant to Pakistan’s prime minister on health- so far, negotiations are going well but we are yet to secure any doses. Pakistan can't afford to pay for a vaccine before they know that it will work due to obvious financial reasons.
There are countries where people are dying and also there are ones with people getting access to vaccines.
So, as a global effort, Covid-19 vaccines should be administered in every country, with a symbol of hope for overcoming both the pandemic and the inequalities that lie at the root of so many global health challenges.
At this stage it looks like some poorer countries will get access to vaccinations, however it could be years before that procedure is rolled out.