- To discuss vaccine nationalism and vaccine equity
- To ensure equity National vaccine roll-out plans
The nationalism displayed when countries sought to secure COVID-19 treatments for their population invariably spread to vaccines, limiting their access and availability in low-income countries. Vaccine pre-orders by the UK, Canada, Japan, European Union and the USA meant vaccines had essentially run out before regulatory approval and mass production started. While some countries ordered doses to vaccinate their population several times over, vaccine costs hindered countries with lower purchasing power from placing orders until cheaper alternatives came on the market. The World Health Organisation has used its mandate to encourage cooperation between countries as emerging new variants of SARS-CoV-2 could hamper COVID-19 control even among vaccinated populations. Furthermore, disruptions to international trade as a result of inequitable vaccine access and closed economies will slow down the global economic recovery. WHO, alongside GAVI (The Vaccine Alliance) and CEPI (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) co-lead COVAX, the vaccine pillar under the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, that was formed to ensure equitable access by developed and developing countries. They have mobilized for funds to support vaccine development and through pricing agreements, they aim to avail 2 billion doses by December 2021 to countries under the scheme.
In October last year, South Africa and India called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to temporarily suspend patents for vaccines, drugs and equipment used for COVID-19. Although this move was met with resistance form several high-income countries, it has received support from the USA and over 50 countries, most of which are in Africa. Its opponents, argue, that wavering vaccine patents alone will not increase the supply of vaccines and may even be detrimental if sub-standard products enter the market.
Within countries, vertical equity underlies national vaccine roll-out plans that prioritise individuals with the highest potential to benefit. This includes populations that face higher mortality risks such as the elderly and people with comorbidities. Other priority vaccine recipients include frontline workers such as healthcare and care home facility workers. Although such strategies ensure those with the highest risk will get protection first, queue-jumping may lead to delays in vaccinating these groups.
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