The World Health Organization is calling on world leaders to end “vaccine nationalism.”
Rabat – A year has passed since the inauguration of the COVAX scheme and the world is still facing large inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The World Health Organization, CEPI, and Gavi the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) created the COVAX scheme as a streamlined vaccine purchase system for the world’s governments.
The two available payment plans perpetuate the growing divide in vaccine access between rich countries and poor countries. Nations with purchasing power to front the cost of the vaccine are able to order directly from COVAX, while those falling under the “low-to-middle income” category rely on shipments from the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (COVAX-AMC).
COVAX-AMC is “the innovative financing instrument that will support the participation of 92 low- and middle-income economies in the COVAX Facility, enabling access to donor-funded doses of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines,” according to Gavi.
Both payment plans are “legally independent from each other” according to the WHO, which may play a part in the unfair disbursement of vaccines.
On Friday, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterated that the world’s poorest countries do not have the same access to vaccines during a videoconference on COVAX’s one year anniversary.
“Nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been administered globally, but over 81% have gone to high- or upper middle-income countries, while low-income countries have received just 0.3%,” said the director-general in a statement.
Global superpowers like the US and UK have succeeded in vaccinating 27.26% and 17.12% of their populations, respectively, while smaller, poorer countries like Sierra Leone have only vaccinated 0.02% of their population.
The WHO labeled the disparities in global vaccine administration as morally irresponsible and has called upon the world to end the “vaccine nationalism.”
Many countries are stockpiling the vaccine by purchasing extreme quantities of the vaccine at once.
Under the EU vaccine strategy, EU member states are not allowed to purchase directly from vaccine suppliers. However, Germany purchased 30 million doses of the vaccine directly from Pfizer in September 2020.
The European Commission’s President, Ursula Von der Leyen, commented on the inequities surrounding the global distribution of the vaccine.
“The response of too many leaders was ‘my country first’. We made a different choice. We knew that we needed to fight this virus not just at home but in all continents and countries, from Asia’s megacities to Africa’s most remote villages,” said Von der Leyen.
The European Commission delayed its plan to donate a large quantity of vaccines to poorer countries, recently purchasing $1.8 billion (MAD 15.98 billion) of the Pfizer vaccine.
Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, John Denton, stated that the rapid, fair disbursement of the COVID-19 vaccine will cost $9 trillion (MAD 79.9 trillion) and COVAX only needs an approximate $19 billion (MAD 221.9 billion) in additional investments to reach this goal.
In the closing remarks of the video conference, Peter Sands of the Global Fund called upon the world to increase funding in COVAX to speed up the global vaccination campaign.
“We have to do it better, we have to move faster, we have to move more comprehensively and we have to move together because we owe it to everyone in the world to beat this pandemic and to beat it fast and to do it in a way that leaves no-one behind.”