Jul 20 (IPS) – “Equality in vaccines is the challenge of our time,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, in his opening remarks. “And we fail” at a special ministerial meeting of the Economic and Social Council.
Earlier, G7 leaders wrote a letter of support declaring that wealthier countries should pay for the cost of vaccinating low- and middle-income countries.
The United States has announced that it will donate 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to COVAX to provide doses of the COVID vaccine to countries in need. In addition, several countries have pledged support for exemptions from intellectual property restrictions, which could allow countries to produce the vaccine in general to inflate production and supply.
While these are essential steps in the right direction, a global system in which poor countries cannot develop and produce their own vaccines to suit their needs is not sustainable; Especially when facing potential epidemics in the future.
Stringent measures, with global solidarity and commitment to build global justice for vaccines and to ensure the last person gets a vaccine in rich and poor countries alike before the next global health crisis strikes, is the need of the hour. This is the time when internationalism overtakes nationalism, and globalization works better than local.
Globally, there is random inequity in the procurement and distribution of vaccines, which has affected countries in Asia and Africa the most. According to the World Health Organization, of the 832 million doses of vaccine administered, 82% went to high- or middle-income countries, while only 0.2% were shipped to low-income countries.
According to a UN report, in high-income countries alone, 1 in 4 people have been vaccinated, a proportion that drops rapidly to 1 in 500 in low-income countries.
This unfair access to a vaccine is rooted in the power, influence, and control of a few wealthy countries that determined vaccine allocation. Early on, despite COVAX’s commitment to vaccinating the world’s population, Western countries developed vaccines separately, in large quantities, more than were necessary, stockpiled and vaccinated all of them, including young people, who are considered to be less at risk.
Citizens of low-income countries faced shortages, even those who were at high risk of contracting COVID-19. As a result, many countries are left behind.
In the Global South, countries have welcomed and celebrated the “noble” decision of rich nations to donate stockpiled vaccines. However, we must take a step back to understand why countries need donations in the first place.
Our struggle to obtain vaccines is not the result of our current shortcomings but the result of our long history – many of which are burdened with the legacy of violent colonialism. If poor countries need to rely on donated vaccines, this is a sign that the global health system is not working. Global health has failed in this epidemic.
It’s not just about buying potions. A painful history of unequal power relations has shifted resources from low- and middle-income countries to their high-income counterparts.
We are working against the persistent lack of support for the infrastructure that allows countries of the Global South to independently lead scientific development. Moreover, our physical resources and human capital have supported the economies of the North for decades.
This is exacerbated by the problem of brain drain, in which talent is drawn from low- and middle-income countries to their higher-income counterparts, perpetuating dependency and inequality. For example, it is estimated that researchers working internationally from low-income countries produce ten times more patents than their fellow citizens back home.
Scientific and health sovereignty are two strategic drivers of equitable access to health.
Rich nations are often lauded for help and donations — progress can be made as we move from philanthropy to rights-based models.
For the sustainability of development efforts, the international cooperation that enables what countries need is international cooperation that enhances local capabilities and expertise, enables the country’s infrastructure and retains talent to generate innovation at home, which is critical. It is about human rights, social justice and fairness.
In the short term, developing countries must be able to produce and equitably access vaccines. This includes facilitating WTO trade-related access to international property rights to enable countries to produce vaccines on site.
In the long run, international cooperation across countries is urgent. For example, Argentina’s Sputnik-V vaccine program includes a collaboration between the Aesthetic Institute, the Russian Investment Fund and the Richmond National Pharmaceutical Laboratory to develop and produce vaccines for Argentina and the Southern Cone. This type of cooperation is strategic to expand vaccine production and enhance technology investment in developing countries.
Regional cooperation will strengthen the health and technology sectors in developing countries. Over the past few months, AstraZeneca vaccines have been produced between Argentina, which produces the active substance for the product, and Mexico, which completes the doses and subsequently packages them.
COVID is a global threat today. There will be more serious threats in the future. As we move forward, let the lesson from the crisis not be in vain. Together, in solidarity, each of us can do our part to advance our shared vision of an equitable world. The development of the vaccine required an extraordinary campaign. Reimagining global health should center around the deliberate intent to get this vaccine to the last person.
Jonathan Konafino MD, MSc, PhD is a Senior Fellow at Atlantic Health Equality and Professor of Public Health at Universidad Nacional Arturo Juric and George Washington University. Minister of Health of the Municipality of Quilmes, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Nagish’s resemblance He is a physician by training and a global health consultant. She is currently working at Latika Roy Foundation, Dehradun, India. She is the Atlantic Senior Fellow in Global Health Equity.
© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service