As the world awaits vaccination for deadly Coronavirus infection, a term 'vaccine nationalism' has surfaced and countries like the United States are adopting it.
As the world awaits vaccination for deadly Coronavirus infection, a term ‘vaccine nationalism’ has surfaced and countries like the United States are adopting it. This will ensure that the US will provide more than two doses of vaccine for all its citizens. However, it may affect vaccination in many countries. In order to understand why there are concerns over vaccine nationalism, it is important to know what vaccine nationalism actually is. As reported by The Indian Express, many countries are already pre-booking vaccine supplies and throwing in money to vaccine manufacturers for initial supply. Without any certainty over the affordability of the vaccine, countries are signing contracts for supply of vaccines for their citizens. This is being called vaccine nationalism.
While the US has signed up for multi-billion dollar agreements with six big pharmaceutical companies to ensure supplies of a combined 800 million doses of vaccines, the United Kingdom has also entered into agreements for 340 million doses. Now, this is raising questions for provision of vaccines for smaller countries.
The report said with countries booking supplies for more than two doses for all their citizens, the vaccine will become inaccessible for other countries and they may have to wait for vaccine supplies for months or years. It is likely that initial production will be sent to the richer countries owing to the contractual obligations. Further, it is to note that while there are many vaccine candidates that are currently under clinical trials, it is unlikely for every candidate to succeed. This will eventually lead to increased prices for those vaccines that have been developed successfully, making the vaccines unaffordable for many countries with small economies.
The ideal situation for distributing vaccines would be first providing it to every frontline worker across countries, however, some governments are securing the produced batches. According to the report, this is being done by the governments because they want to show their concerns over citizens’ safety and health, thus, hoarding the vaccine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and some other international alliances, have started a programme that will accelerate the development, production, as well as equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines. The vaccine part of the programme is known as the COVAX facility which is doing exactly what the rich countries are doing to secure vaccines. However, their objective is not just to procure vaccines for a particular country but ensure that the vaccines are available to all equally and at an affordable cost. WHO is trying to make sure that the vaccine is available to all countries for at least 20 per cent of their population. When the doses are available in masses, it can be distributed to countries according to their population size and extent of their problems.
As many as 170 countries are still in talks for joining the COVAX programme as the organisation will be needing at least $100 billion for funding. However, WHO has not been able to secure even 10 per cent of this amount.