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Pandemic Persists Through Inequality


There is a huge vaccine supply gap between countries. While countries in Europe and the USA are getting the pandemic under control thanks to the ongoing vaccination process, anger in other countries due to lack of vaccine supply is growing.

Covid19 Vaccine vials
Image Credit: AtlanticCouncil.org

On the one hand, this is due to the sometimes-chaotic procurement policy of governments such as in Brazil and Argentina, which failed due to mismanagement – and on the other hand, the fact that the USA in particular initially supplied itself.


That is unfortunate and unfair.


Danger of mutations increases


Doctors warn that with a sustained high number of new infections, the risk of mutations that are immune to the previous vaccines increases. Then, already vaccinated countries would be in danger again. In order to defeat the pandemic worldwide, Africa and Latin America would also need to be vaccinated quickly.


At least in the US, the calls for help and the criticism seem to have arrived. The Washington Post and the New York Times reported unanimously that the US government wants to buy 500 million vaccine doses and donate them to poorer countries. US President Joe Biden wants to announce this before or at the G7 summit in Great Britain, which begins on Friday. That would be a first big step in the right direction, however, who will be accountable and responsible for ensuring those countries receive their promised vaccine allotment?


Inequality in access to COVID-19 vaccines will have a lasting and profound impact on the socioeconomic recovery of low- and lower-middle-income countries unless urgent action is taken to ensure equitable access for all countries, including other things by dose- according to new data released today by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Oxford.


It is time to ensure that vaccine doses are distributed quickly, that all obstacles to increased vaccine manufacturing are removed, and that vaccines are distributed fairly and a real recovery of the global economy can take place.


A high price per dose of the COVID-19 vaccine compared to other vaccines and delivery costs – including an increased health workforce – could put enormous pressure on fragile health systems, undermining routine vaccinations and essential health services, in addition to leading to alarming increases in measles and pneumonia and Diarrhea. There is also a clear risk of losing opportunities to expand other immunization services, such as the safe and effective use of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. Low-income countries need timely access to affordable vaccines and financial support.


This data comes from the Global COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Dashboard, a joint initiative by UNDP, WHO and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford, which combines the latest information on vaccination against COVID-19 with economic data to illustrate why the accelerating access to vaccines is not only critical to saving lives, but also driving a faster and more equitable recovery from the pandemic for the benefit of all.



Nurse pulling vaccine into needle from vial.
Image Credit: Medical News Today

Why does vaccine inequity matter?


“In some low- and middle-income countries, less than 1% of the population is vaccinated, contributing to a bilateral recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said. “Now is the time to act quickly and collectively: this new Global Dashboard on COVID-19 Vaccine Justice will provide governments, policymakers and international organizations with unique insights to accelerate the global vaccine supply and address the devastating socioeconomic mitigate the impact of the pandemic. “


While the poorest countries have not yet been able to vaccinate their health workers or most of the vulnerable population and may not have the pre-COVID 19-time growth rates reach 2024. Meanwhile, the Delta variant and other strains are leading some countries to reintroduce strict social public health measures. This further exacerbates the health, social, economic and health impacts, particularly for the most vulnerable and marginalized. Vaccination equity threatens all countries and risks making hard-earned progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Vaccines should be treated as a global public good. This was already suggested at the UN General Assembly but has not materialized because of IP rights. The People’s Vaccine campaign demands that everyone, everywhere, who needs it, must get a safe and effective vaccine, and have access to diagnostic tools and treatments, free of charge at the point of delivery. The basis of the campaign lay in the massive financial support of countries for pharmaceutical companies during the Covid crisis. Because of all the grants provided in developing vaccines, those are already ‘people’s vaccines’.


No one is safe until everyone is safe.



Image Credit: GlobalVillageSpace.com

What can be done?


Release patents, broaden vaccine production

Vaccine production also needs solidarity so that as many people as possible around the world can be vaccinated as quickly as possible. Above all, patent law disputes must not stand in the way of this important goal.


Currently, for example, the so-called intellectual property regulations in the WTO (World Trade Union) prevent other manufacturers from producing Covid-19 vaccines and medicines.

This means that it is not possible to expand the urgently needed production , which creates supply bottlenecks.


So, it may be necessary to temporarily relax and suspend these intellectual property rules.


Online campaign for more vaccines

The same goal, more vaccine production, is being pursued by the EU citizens’ initiative Right2cure, which also aims “that intellectual property rights, including patents, do not hinder the accessibility or availability of future Covid-19 vaccines or treatments”.


Global Call on “Saving Lives and Protecting Jobs!”

The severe health and economic crisis caused by the current coronavirus pandemic is destroying millions of jobs and making those that remain precarious, increasing poverty, misery and economic and social inequality around the world, which in turn widens the divide between North and enlarged south.


In the face of this global emergency, there is an urgent need to save lives and protect jobs.


Conclusion


We must call for vaccines to be a public good from which no private profit can be made, especially since a large amount of public money has been invested in their development, and that it is a political and moral obligation, to vaccinate the population without discrimination on income or nationality.

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