Are vaccines being equally distributed around the globe?
On November 9th November 2020 there was a surge in the global stock market on a news release of Pfizer and BioNTech on their successful vaccine development, which was estimated to be 90% effective. They seemed to be fantastic news, however, not everyone was happy to see them.
Out of 1.3 billion vaccines injected into the world, only 1% of them reached Africa. From Africa to Latin, Asia, and the Caribbean facing similar issues. Why have these countries received only 1% of vaccines? Let’s understand it with historical data.
When the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) started in 1988, it took 24 years for countries to be fully vaccinated and for economies to fully recover. (Graphs show the vaccination level. The red colour indicates a low level of vaccination, whereas the yellow colour indicates a higher level of vaccines).
As we can see in the pictures, it clearly depicts the nations which were vaccinated first and the nations which are vaccinated later. You may find reasons to justify it like there was not enough technology, lack of awareness, etc., but these can’t be exceptions for vaccination drives because these are not the actual reasons for the delay in vaccination.
In 1988 the nations that were vaccinated were mainly economically developed countries, in 2000 below middle-income nations like some African countries were still not vaccinated and in 2012 Pakistan and Afghanistan still didn’t have their vaccines. As you can see, the vaccination drive went from Developed to Developing to Underdeveloped countries. Some socialists called it ’Vaccine Nationalism’.
Now you can understand why everyone is not happy on the news when it comes to covid vaccine development. The same vaccine nationalism is happening in this covid-19 era.
As we can see clearly on the map, the Developed countries are getting vaccinated first irrespective of their deaths and cases. De facto, many African countries that have many more cases than the European ones, have not even vaccinated a 5% of their population share. We have good technology, awareness, and workforce, we can get vaccinated yet still some countries face a shortage of vaccines.
Vaccination programmes are an investment in a country’s human capital. They restart the economic engines of the nation, and also decrease the government expenditure on public healthcare as citizens with immunity won’t get the virus, and, as a consequence, they won’t visit the doctor for that reason.
The consensus is that access to vaccines for low-income countries is a global responsibility. To make sure that all countries and their citizens have equal access to a vaccine, India, Eswatini, Kenya, and South Africa proposed a waiver from certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Acceptance of the proposal would allow low-income countries to produce their own COVID-19 vaccine. However, various high-income countries rejected the proposal, arguing that they cannot support the proposed broad exceptions to protection of intellectual property rights, even in an exceptional crisis such as COVID-19.
Therefore, strengthening the institutions in low-income countries plays a vital role in vaccine development. For this there should be a co-operation between high-income and low-income countries.