Guru Gyan
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Guru Gyan

How Vaccine Nationalism Could Become A Big Problem?

Vaccine Nationalism might emerge as a problem during this pandemic. What does it mean?

What’s The News?

An analysis released by the United States-based Duke Global Health Innovation Center showed some uncomfortable truths. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Andrea D. Taylor, the assistant director of programs at the Global Health Innovation Center who also led this analysis, said that this “vaccinationalism” will lead to some countries being able to vaccinate their entire populations — and some many times over — while denying low-resource regions to Covid-19 protection until 2024.

Vaccine Nationalism

Vaccine nationalism is when governments sign agreements with pharmaceutical manufacturers to supply their own populations with the vaccine before they become available for other countries.

Imagine an under-developed/poor country, with not many funds, not being able to get access to the vaccine for its people just because millions of doses have already been purchased by either developed countries or developing countries who can afford it.

Hoarding The Vaccines

At present, several countries are hoarding vaccines just like how we hoarded sanitizers when the pandemic began. The reason behind this hoarding is that there are a lot of vaccines in the making and truth be told, we will never know which ones will work. Hence, some wealthy countries are hedging their bets by buying up huge amounts of several vaccines, before scientists have concluded clinical trials and proven the vaccines to be safe or effective.

In the interview, published with Hindustan Times, Andrea said that the U.S has pre-ordered the largest number of doses at 810 million confirmed, with another 1.6 billion doses under negotiation. After the U.S, India has confirmed 600 million doses, with another 1 billion doses under negotiation. Then, the European Union has confirmed 400 million doses, with another 1.565 billion doses under negotiation.

She goes on to say that, in terms of per cent of the population covered by confirmed purchases, Canada has pre-purchased enough vaccines to 527% of their population and the UK has purchased enough to cover 277% of its population. However, it is also crucial to note that most likely only some of the vaccines purchases will come through, depending on regulatory approval.

The Impact

It is understandable that countries put their own population first and everyone else second. However, if several countries start buying more and more doses, it will lead to a pattern of behaviour that will leave some countries with little to no vaccine, aggravating existing inequities and prolonging the pandemic, Andrea noted.

Can’t this be avoided? The answer is Yes and No. The act of manufacturing and distributing a vaccine comes with its own problems and politics. The WHO-backed COVAX Facility mechanism assures the supply of vaccines to whichever country that signs up for it. Under COVAX, countries will get assured supplies to protect at least 20% of their populations.

However, COVAX does not prevent countries from signing their own independent deals with manufacturers and that’s how the UK, Canada and Australia have signed for deals with independent countries. So, these countries will get access to vaccines under COVAX and also, from the deals they made with manufacturers. These deals are anticipated to further increase prices, potentially making them even more unaffordable for others.

So, what is the best solution here? Developed nations should understand and be considerate about working towards providing vaccines to low-income countries. Every human being deserves the right to a safe and effective vaccine, not only the privileged ones.

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