Rich Countries Should Start Sharing Covid-19 Vaccine Doses With Lower-Income Countries

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - May 12, 2021 06:37 PM +05:30 IST
Rich Countries Should Start Sharing Covid-19 Vaccine Doses With Lower-Income Countries Covid-19 vaccine. 
  • The UNICEF has said that vaccinating the entire world is the only way to make sure that coronavirus variants do not spread.

It has been more than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the worldwide health crisis as a pandemic.

Now some developing countries are facing critical shortages of oxygen and medical supplies to cope with Covid-19 cases and the majority of which are yet to give a single dose to their population.

But in the case of rich nations, they are vaccinating their citizens at a rate of one person per second.

According to a Bloomberg report, published in December 2020, almost 31 countries around the world have reserved more Covid-19 vaccine per capita than the United States.

It also said that Bloomberg has reviewed more than 80 agreements between vaccine makers and countries to reserve allocations while they were still in development.

“Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia top the list, with enough vaccine doses reserved to cover their populations several times over,” the report added.

Even according to a UNAIDS’ March 2021 report, many wealthy countries, including the United Kingdom and European Union, have blocked a proposal by around 100 developing nations to be discussed at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on 10 March that would override the monopolies held by pharmaceutical companies and allow an urgently needed scale-up in the production of Covid vaccines to ensure poorer countries get access to the doses they desperately need.

However, now UNICEF has asked the United Kingdom to give its 20 per cent of allocated vaccines to other countries which need those jabs urgently as early as June.

As per the UN agency, the United Kingdom can afford to share those vaccines with lower-income countries as it will still have enough to vaccinate every adult by the end of July.

UNICEF has urged the British government to set an example to the G7 by starting to share the vaccines next month.

It said that vaccinating the entire world is the only way to make sure that coronavirus variants do not spread.

In April this year, France set an example after it became the first high-income country to donate doses of Covid-19 vaccines from its domestic supply to COVAX, with an initial commitment of 500,000 doses.

COVAX is the UN-backed initiative to get vaccines to lower-income countries.

The French President Emmanuel Macron also called on Europe and the United States to do the same.

“We’re not talking about billions of doses immediately, or billions and billions of euros. It’s about much more rapidly allocating 4-5 per cent of the doses we have,” he told Financial Times.

He also said that this won’t change the ongoing vaccination campaigns.

But each county can set aside a small number of Covid-19 vaccines it has to transfer tens of millions of doses as soon as possible “so that people on the ground see it happening,” Macron added.

In the United States, President Joe Biden has committed to sharing surplus vaccine stocks with the developing nations and has undertaken to deliver 60 million Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses it holds.

However, as per The Washington Post, apart from Oxford-AstraZeneca the American government has bought enough coronavirus vaccines to fully immunise over 700 million people in the country.

America has 100 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, 300 million doses from Pfizer, 300 million doses from Moderna, 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, 100 million doses from Novovax and 100 million doses from Sanofi.

AstraZeneca, Novovax and Sanofi haven’t yet had their vaccines approved in the United States.

As per the Bloomberg vaccine tracker, as of now, around 263 million doses have been given in the United States.

It added that in the last week, an average of 2.2 million doses per day was administered.

In the case of the United Kingdom, Joanna Rea, the director of advocacy at UNICEF UK told The Guardian, “We can’t ignore that the UK and other G7 countries have purchased over a third of the world’s vaccine supply, despite making up only 13 per cent of the global population – and we risk leaving low-income countries behind.”

Rea also warned that unless the United Kingdom urgently starts sharing available vaccine doses to ensure that other countries around the world are protected from the novel coronavirus, the country itself “will not be safe” from Covid-19.

“Our vaccine rollout success could be reversed and the NHS could be fighting another wave of the virus due to deadly mutations,” she added.

Vaccine production is limited around the world, even in India, which has the world's largest vaccine manufacturer — Serum Institute of India.

According to government data, the country has shipped around 66 million vaccine doses overseas since January 2021, under the COVAX initiative.

But now India is witnessing a deadly second wave of Covid-19 and the country needs to vaccinate its population as fast as possible to fight against the virus surge.

However, Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO) who is a part of the COVAX team has called for rich countries to share a percentage of the vaccine doses they have acquired with other countries which need it most.

Aylward said: “Where we are now is that 1.3 billion doses have been administered into the arms of people around the world.”

“But for the 20 to 30 poorest countries the total is less than 5 million,” he told British media while adding that “There is no scenario where that is equitable.”

“There’s lots of vaccine in the world. We have healthcare workers and vulnerable people in the poorest parts of the world and we don’t need that many doses to make a huge impact,” Aylward added.

He also said that in sub-Saharan Africa the number of vulnerable people is 3-4 per cent of the population and an even smaller percentage of health care workers.

“Watching India and Brazil, all the arguments have been made. Right now, we have a real-time window to avoid seeing that tragedy repeated elsewhere,” concluded the WHO senior advisor.

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