COVID-19 vaccine: Low-income countries suffer at the hands of affluent nations

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According to a combination of scientists, campaigners, and international organizations, just 10% of individuals in 67 low-income countries will receive the COVID-19 vaccine next year.

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COVID-19 vaccine: Low-income countries suffer at the hands of affluent nations - Photo by Pallava Bagla/Getty Images
COVID-19 vaccine: Low-income countries suffer at the hands of affluent nations – Photo by Pallava Bagla/Getty Images

A coalition of worldwide groups, supported by former world leaders and health professionals, warns that in 2021, 90% of individuals in 67 low- and lower-middle-income countries would not receive COVID-19 vaccines.

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, this is partial because wealthy nations purchase several times the vaccine doses need to vaccinate their populations. Amnesty International, Global Justice Now, Free the Vaccine, the Yunus Centre, Frontline AIDS, Oxfam, SumOfUs, and UNAIDS are among the groups that comprise the partnership.

They demand that all vaccine makers disclose their intellectual property and technology freely and that COVID-19 vaccinations be distributed based on need and made available to the public for free.

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Access to vaccines

The discovery of safe and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines has been a significant worldwide accomplishment.

Historically, vaccine development took between 10 and 15 years. In comparison, scientists produced multiple COVID-19 vaccines effectively in less than a year.

As with any vaccination, though, creating one that is both safe and effective is only half the battle. Regardless of how effective vaccination is, if a person is unwilling or unable to get it, their lives are still at risk.

Researchers have discovered an increase in vaccination reluctance. According to a September 2020 study conducted in the United States, just around half of the respondents would definitely or probably consent to vaccination.

While vaccine hesitancy is a concern, the primary worldwide barrier to vaccination is a lack of vaccinations.

Injustice in distribution

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the primary barrier to access in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is low-income countries’ capacity to acquire substantial quantities of the vaccine.

According to Oxfam’s health policy manager, Anna Marriott:

“No one should be denied access to a life-saving vaccination based on their place of origin or the amount of money they have in their pocket. However, unless something drastic happens, billions of people worldwide will remain without a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccination for years to come.”

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, 53% of the most promising vaccines have been purchased by wealthy nations that account for just 14% of the world’s population.

Currently, affluent nations have acquired 96 percent of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has a 95 percent effectiveness rate.

Oxford-AstraZeneca has pledged to give 64% of its vaccination doses to poor countries. The People’s Vaccine Alliance, on the other hand, notes that Oxford-AstraZeneca will be able to serve just 18 percent of the world’s population next year.

Additionally, the majority of completed Oxford-AstraZeneca transactions include bigger emerging nations, such as India and China.

Smaller developing countries rely on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX program — yet the 700 million doses secured via this program are insufficient to vaccinate 10% of the population in the 67 poorer nations listed by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.

Is this a public good?

As a result, the People’s Vaccine Alliance argues that the vaccine technology and intellectual property should be open to the public, as no single business can supply the whole world. They propose that COVID-19 vaccinations should be considered as a public good.

According to Heidi Chow of Global Justice Now, “all pharmaceutical companies and research institutes developing vaccines must share the science, technological know-how, and intellectual property underlying their vaccine in order to create sufficient safe and effective doses.”

“Governments should also guarantee that the pharmaceutical sector prioritizes human life over profit.”

According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, the scenario is made even more unjust by the fact that AstraZeneca-Oxford, Moderna, and Pfizer-BioNTech have received more than $5 billion in public money to research their vaccines.

According to Dr. Mohga Kamal Yanni of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, “rich nations have enough doses to vaccinate everyone roughly three times over, whereas poor countries have insufficient doses to reach health professionals and at-risk populations.” Continuing, Dr. Yanni:

“The present system, in which pharmaceutical firms get government money for research, hold exclusive rights, and keep their technologies secret in order to maximize profits, may result in the loss of countless lives.”