WITH at least 14 vaccines now in play, it is not surprising that powerful nations such as the USA, EU, UK, Russia, China and others have rushed to stockpile them for the benefit of their citizens. This is more so as these countries, despite their sophisticated healthcare systems, have been severely affected by the coronavirus scourge in terms of number of people infected and fatalities.
The scramble for available vaccines should be approached with caution to avoid what the World Health Organisation has correctly termed “vaccine nationalism”. According to the World Economic Forum, WEF, “vaccine nationalism” occurs when countries push to get first access.
“The richest nations have secured billions of COVID-19 doses, while developing countries struggle for supplies”. Many of the advanced countries end up stockpiling far more than they may need while the poor nations are left behind and running the risk of buying at exorbitant prices.
The WHO has been criticised for many failures since the pandemic emerged in China in December 2019, but it has been very proactive in efforts to ensure that vaccines and other treatment options are equitably available to countries irrespective of the size of their pockets.
In April 2020 it initiated the Access to COVID-19 Tools, ACT, Accelerator which designed the COVID-19 Vaccine, COVAX, in partnership with GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, the Centre for Epidemics Preparedness Innovations, CEPI, and others to ensure that all countries will have access to vaccines. This has attracted 156 economies so far.
We commend the WHO and partners for this initiative whose importance can never be understated. This is the first worldwide pandemic in the globalised era.
Visionaries like Bill Gates warn that perhaps more vicious pandemics might be here pretty soon. We must use the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic to adjust the world’s mindset towards a greater tendency to share resources rather than monopolise them.
We must put more emphasis on our common humanity rather than the supremacy of the highest bidder.
It is in the interest of all that vaccines go round where they are needed irrespective of financial power.
If the pandemic is allowed to fester in some corners of the world, the risk of mutations to more dangerous variants will increase and we may live with this pandemic for much longer than necessary.
The WEF has even determined that richer economies will have to spend $119 billion per annum if the $25 billion required to make vaccines universally available is not realised.
We are all in this COVID-19 war together. To effectively eradicate it in record time, we must continue to close ranks.
We must continue to share efforts and resources, knowing that whatever is allowed to go round will always come round.