[Ip-health] Op-ed by Dr. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS in Foreign Policy - Vaccine Nationalism Harms Everyone and Protects No One

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Feb 3 03:05:35 PST 2021


Vaccine Nationalism Harms Everyone and Protects No One

The World Health Organization’s chief argues that hoarding vaccines isn’t
just immoral—its medically self-defeating.


We are in a race against time. The development of safe and effective
COVID-19 vaccines in record time is a remarkable testament to modern
scientific capabilities. Whether it will bring an end to this terrible
pandemic is a test of the world’s political will and moral commitment.

Despite the growing number of vaccine options, current manufacturing
capacity meets only a fraction of global need. Vaccines are the best chance
of bringing this pandemic under control—unless leaders succumb to vaccine

International collaboration among scientists was critical to vaccine
development, but now weak cooperation between nations is a major barrier to
achieving worldwide vaccination at the scale needed to end the pandemic.
Vaccine equity isn’t just a slogan; it protects people everywhere, protects
the existing shots from new vaccine-resistant variants, and strengthens the
international community’s ability to stop COVID-19.

At present, rich countries with just 16 percent of the world’s population
have bought up 60 percent of the world’s vaccine supply. Many of these
countries aim to vaccinate 70 percent of their adult population by midyear
in pursuit of herd immunity. But COVAX—the multilateral mechanism created
by the World Health Organization together with the Coalition for Epidemic
Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, to ensure that
vaccines reach all people everywhere—is struggling to purchase enough doses
to cover just 20 percent of the population of lower-income countries by the
end of 2021.

. . .

At the moment, there are not enough vaccine doses in any country, but the
shortfall in poor countries is particularly dire. As long as world leaders
are calculating whose lives and livelihoods to prioritize, as long as
everyone is scrambling to secure enough doses, we are all losing the fight.
The main vaccine producers are working to increase production, but they are
nowhere near meeting demand.

Governments and companies must come together to overcome this artificial
scarcity. There are many steps that can be taken to ramp up vaccine
production and broaden distribution. These include openly sharing vaccine
manufacturing technology, intellectual property, and know-how through the
COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, temporarily waiving intellectual property
barriers, and expanding voluntary contracting between manufacturers.

Open-sourcing will enable immediate use of untapped production capacity,
through such initiatives as the Developing Countries Vaccine Manufacturers
Network, and help build additional manufacturing bases—especially in
Africa, Asia, and Latin America—which will be essential to meeting ongoing
demand for COVID-19 booster shots and future vaccines. Expanding production
globally would make poor countries less dependent on donations from rich
ones. This is essential to achieve true health equality and global health

The international community cannot allow a handful of actors to dictate the
terms or the timeframe for ending the pandemic. The coronavirus is not only
indifferent to profits and politics; it is still evolving. The longer we
allow billions of people to go unvaccinated, the greater the possibility
that new variants will develop vaccine resistance. Vaccine nationalism
combined with a restrictive approach to vaccine production is in fact more
likely to prolong the pandemic—which would be tantamount to medical
malpractice on a global scale.

. . .

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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