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Covax cannot eliminate vaccine disparities. What’s going wrong?

“This pandemic is a test and the world is failing that test.” World Health Organization (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus could not have been much clearer when he spoke about the uneven distribution of vaccinations worldwide prior to the Tokyo Olympics. He called on countries to donate much more to the Covax program.

What is Covax again?

Covax is an international partnership of, among others, the WHO and aid organization Gavi, with the aim of getting two billion injections this year in the 92 of the poorest countries in the world. In this way, those countries would achieve a vaccination rate of at least 20 percent, protecting the most vulnerable groups, as well as a crucial part of the working population, so that the economies can also partly go crazy.

The vaccines are purchased by Covax itself (more than 2.5 billion doses) and donated by wealthier countries that have vaccines left (a total of 1.25 billion doses). The largest donor to Covax by far is the US, with 500 million vaccines pledged. This is followed by the United Kingdom and France with 80 and 31 million doses respectively.

What’s wrong?

Despite all the plans and commitments, the statistics still show an extreme dichotomy: countries classified by the World Bank as high-income countries had already fully vaccinated 50.15 percent of the population by July 21, while that percentage in low-income countries had already been fully vaccinated. week was just 1.32 percent.

This is mainly because the richer countries bought up almost all available doses at the beginning of the crisis; 16 percent of the world has obtained about 50 percent of all vaccines. Those countries have pledged to donate a large portion of those leftover vaccines to Covax. But for the time being, little has come of actual delivery, partly because more and more rich countries are considering a so-called ‘booster dose’: a third shot to be better protected against new virus variants.

The result: Of the 2 billion shots Covax plans to do this year, only 136 million doses have arrived in the 92 poorest countries, far too few to achieve the hoped-for vaccination coverage of 20 percent.

The possible solution that countries such as India and South Africa are advocating, namely to increase the worldwide production capacity of vaccines by temporarily allowing pharmaceuticals to release their patents, is also not getting off the ground. A number of countries within the European Union in particular believe that the current rules are already flexible enough – a position that the big pharmaceuticals support (the world has nine new billionaires thanks to the corona vaccines, including the top executives of Moderna and BioNTech).

The fact that the Covax program is not yet fully underway is not solely the fault of the West. “There are also challenges in the low- and middle-income countries themselves. For example, the willingness to vaccinate is low in some countries due to fake news, for example,” said Suzanne Laszlo, the Dutch director of UNICEF. Within Covax, Unicef ​​is responsible for the purchase and distribution of the vaccines, among other things.

Why is this inequality a problem?

That US President Joe Biden announced this week that from August the US will also vaccinate children under 12 – a group that is at relatively low risk – while in large parts of the world even the most vulnerable groups have not yet been vaccinated, according to many. not speak straight. From Pope Francis to WHO Director Ghebreyesus, they all point to this “horrible injustice”.

But beyond the moral objections, there are also concrete problems with this “vaccination apartheid”, as Ghebreyesus calls it. If the virus continues to circulate in much of the world, it also means that much of the global economy will continue to be plagued by lockdowns and economic setbacks, the IMF recently warned.

Virologically, the risks are great. In the past few weeks alone, there have been major virus outbreaks in countries such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Kenya and Indonesia. As long as there are countries where there is a lot of virus transmission, there will also be a chance that new, dangerous variants of the virus will arise, which will eventually break through the vaccine barrier in the west. After the delta variant from India, we have to wait for the sigma variant from Kenya, or the omega variant from Kyrgyzstan.

For example, despite the advent of vaccines, the second year of the pandemic threatens to be even more deadly than the first, Ghebreyesus warned this week. In addition, more and more human rights will be at stake. In countries without a social safety net, the consequences of the pandemic are usually more severe. Resulting in a kind of chain collision of problems. UNICEF director Laszlo said: “In 2020, 1.5 billion children were out of school due to the pandemic. The effects of measures have also led to food shortages, an increase in child labor and child marriage. It’s vicious circles.”

Covax cannot eliminate vaccine disparities. What’s going wrong?
Source link Covax cannot eliminate vaccine disparities. What’s going wrong?

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