COVID Vaccine: Unfairly Distributed
As the world marks World Health Day 2021 with its theme “Together for a fairer, healthier world,” it offers a reminder that no one is safe until all are safe. Overcoming the pandemic and recovering from its devastating human, social and economic impact can only be achieved through joint efforts.
As many as 60 countries, including some of the world’s poorest, might be stalled at the first shots of their COVID-19 vaccinations because nearly all deliveries through the global program intended to help them are blocked until as late as June. Covax, the global initiative to provide vaccines to countries lacking the clout to negotiate for scarce supplies on their own, last week shipped more than 25,000 doses to low-income countries only twice on any given day. Deliveries have all but halted since April 5.
“There remains a shocking imbalance in the global distribution of vaccines” “On average in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500. Let me repeat that: one in four versus one in 500.” Said WHO chief Tedros Adhanonom Ghebreyesus, speaking during the agency’s regular briefing from Geneva.
“The problem is not getting vaccines out of COVAX; the problem is getting them in”, he said. “We understand that some countries and companies plan to do their own bilateral vaccine donations, bypassing COVAX for their own political or commercial reasons. These bilateral arrangements run the risk of fanning the flames of vaccine inequity.”
“What we are now beginning to see are supply constraints, not just of vaccines, but also of the goods that go into making vaccines” said Dr Seth Berkley, the Chief Executive Officer at Gavi.
“Progress on vaccinations has been wildly uneven and unfair.” Said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. The UN and partners have established the COVAX Facility so that all countries will have access to vaccines, regardless of their wealth. The global mechanism must be fully funded, the Secretary-General said. “But we must do even more”, he added. “The world urgently needs a Global Vaccination Plan to bring together all those with the required power, scientific expertise and production and financial capacities”.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is assisting countries in preparation for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, aiming to procure two billion doses by the end of the year. “This historic effort deserves historic support”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Help us ensure that the light at the end of the tunnel shines on us all — including the families and communities enduring the horrors of conflict”.
“Making huge parts of Africa and Asia wait for unwanted, leftover vaccines from rich countries’ stocks is not just immoral, it is irresponsible. And the lack of coordinated action from the G7 is inexcusable. The longer huge swathes of the world’s population are denied protection, the greater the threat that virus mutations will threaten us all. Said Max Lawson, Oxfam Head of Inequality Policy.
“In the absence of high vaccination coverage globally, we risk dragging out the pandemic for several more years,” said Lavanya Vasudevan, an assistant professor at Duke University’s Global Health Institute. “Every day that the virus is in circulation is an opportunity for it to mutate into a more deadly variant.”
Our world is an unequal one. As COVID-19 has highlighted, some people are able to live healthier lives and have better access to health services than others - entirely due to the conditions in which they are born, grow, live, work and age. All over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services. This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And it harms our societies and economies.