We need more COVID vaccines, made available to all

Amjad Yamin (Photo: Jordan News)
While at the beginning of the pandemic the global south seemed largely unscathed, the coronavirus is currently spreading at an alarming rate and may result in this year’s deaths surpassing 2020’s, the year which we thought would be the pandemic’s worst year in terms of impact.اضافة اعلان

In India, today, a little bit less than 400,000 new cases are reported daily, along with some 3,800 deaths, amid reports of overcrowded hospitals, public burning of corpses in parks, and at least one major city reporting a 98 per cent occupancy rate and less than 1 per cent of patients in intensive care unit beds receiving oxygen. Two weeks ago, Reuters reported that the same city had more than 20 per cent free beds, signaling a fast-approaching disaster. This virus knows no borders, as many of us have heard and possibly experienced first-hand. A new strain that is present in more than 37 countries, with a significant presence in South America, is spreading faster, is affecting far younger people as well, and doctors are saying the patients with the P.1 strain are far sicker than before.

What is unconscionable between this year and the last one, though, is that we actually have the means to stop the virus from claiming another few million lives, from destroying economies, driving people into famine, destroying gains made by women, and reversing educational gains across the world, where even developed nations reported large percentages of children out of school. Namely, we have several vaccines, we have COVAX, the global mechanism that is supposed to deliver the vaccine across the world, we have agreements to suspend intellectual property rights and we have several vaccines, from several manufacturers and developed through different technologies. 

But we are not short on problems. 

Richer countries continue to hoard doses — while still helping others, they are seemingly waiting to solve all problems at home before pushing for the global campaign. Data from a US-based health policy showed that while richer countries are home to about 16 per cent of the global population, they hold 52 per cent of all coronavirus does. The US alone has an excess 300 million extra shots, even after accounting for all the children who will be born this year. 

Companies, naturally putting their interests first, are also slowing the rate of possible dissemination, where Pfizer, for example, are asking for liability protection — even those that could arise from its own negligence — and are asking governments to hold sovereign assets and bank reserves, embassy buildings, and military bases as collateral, which itself slowed the pace of purchasing. 

And while the development of vaccines within this timeframe can easily be called miraculous, it is still not enough. For example, we have only globally made 1.3 billion doses of all coronavirus vaccines to date, we need at 10 times that to vaccinate the world. At this rate, we are going to have enough doses in 10 years from today. 

We need to invest in alternatives, and ramp up production in other parts of the world. While the UK, for example, has doubled its production capacity from two to four plants in the last year alone, there are currently virtually zero plants manufacturing any of the vaccines in the entirety of the African continent. 

Coronavirus is a global problem that will not be resolved without a global solution. And while much of the world continues to want to favor solving the problem at home first, it will remain everyone’s pandemic until everyone is free from it.

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