As rich countries race to inculcate their citizens against the deadly coronavirus, dozens of less fortunate nations are left behind, unable to compete in the global race to purchase as much as possible of the precious vaccine.
The virus hit the entire world, rich and poor. An increasingly connected world has been suffering collectively from the health, social and economic impact of the outbreak. Unfortunately, as soon as a vaccine became available, nations with more means got the first access to it.
The United Nations Secretary General António Guterres, has criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, saying 10 countries have administered 75 per cent of all vaccinations while 130 countries had not yet received a single dose. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” he told the G7 leaders who met virtually on Friday.
Leaders of the world’s largest economies promised to provide the vaccine to poorer countries as part of COVAX, the UN initiative to ensure free and equitable distribution of the vaccine. However, most of those leaders are yet to determine how much vaccine they will offer the less fortunate nations.
Asked about the G7 pledge, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the leaders “have not yet spoken about the percentage [of doses to be made available to developing countries]. We have not yet spoken about the timing. That still has to be discussed.”
Some countries have already donated vast amounts of the vaccine to needy nations. On Sunday, more than 20,000 coronavirus vaccine doses arrived in Gaza, donated by the UAE, which has sent similar shipment to a number of countries in recent weeks. China also donated vaccines to several developing countries including Somalia, Iraq, South Sudan and Palestine.
The coronavirus has infected more at least 112 million people and killed nearly 2.5 million worldwide. As vaccine manufacturers struggle to produce enough doses against the odds of technical and logistical issues, whatever they produce ends up with those who can pay for it.
UN’s COVAX programme, which aims to buy and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest people, is a great initiative. However, it has already missed its own goal of giving the vaccine jabs in poor countries at the same time that shots were rolled out in rich countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says the programme needs at least $5bn in 2021.
It is upon all wealthy countries, especially the G7, to ensure the success of the programme. This is a global pandemic and no country will be immune as long as other countries continue to witness a surge in infections. To stop the virus, the world needs to move together — the needy countries whose health systems are naturally stressed by the outbreak must have equal access to the vaccine.