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Vaccine Inequity increases the gap between the ‘haves and the have nots’

It is such unfortunate that more than 4 million people have officially died from the virus and chances are high the actual figure might be more than the reported figures. 

 

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What raises concern is the realisation that before us are the tools humanity needs to save lives at risk of COVID-19 pandemic. The major question remains are the powerful and rich governments flexing the political will to do just that?

Failure for a swift, efficient and effective collective concern shared between the big pharmaceutical companies with big monopoly and their rich-powerful governments continue facilitating not only the emergency of new harsh coronavirus mutations but also unnecessary loss of life. By aiding the global spread of the virus, the world is giving the virus free rein to keep spreading and undermining the capacity of the vulnerable developing countries existing stock of health tools.

 ‘Of the more than four billion vaccine doses administered globally, 75% have been administered in just 10 countries. While in most low-income countries, just over 1% of people have received at least one dose,’ says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation.

What is apparent from the many analysts, international media houses and calls from those advocating for inclusivity approach in accessing COVID-19 vaccination is that the gap between the haves and have nots is likely to grow even further due to profiteering motive by pharmaceutical companies. 

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, said: “Pharmaceutical companies are holding the world to ransom at a time of unprecedented global crisis. This is perhaps one of the most lethal cases of profiteering in history.

“Precious budgets that could be used for building more health facilities in poorer countries are instead being raided by CEOs and shareholders of these all-powerful corporations,” says Marriot.

Many of the rich countries in Europe are already hoarding and buying vaccines in connection with COVID-19 booster shots thus further making it difficult for the poor developing countries to access the same vaccines to undertake nationwide vaccination for their own frontline health workers and the whole population.

According to the World Health Organisation, Director General there is need for a massive global push to vaccinate at least;

  • 10% of the population of every country by September
  • 40% by the end of the year
  • 70% by mid-next year.

Reaching the above targets timeously is projected to contribute to halting the spread of the pandemic and support global economy recovery. 

It makes more moral sense asking for countries that have vaccinated the majority of their populations to share vaccine doses with low-income countries. The move is the only best way to slow the virus down, protect the most vulnerable and support global recovery.

Equally important is the need to increase vaccine-manufacturing capacity in all regions.  Achieving such a vision need leaders in rich powerful governments and pharmaceutical corporations to share licenses, technology and know-how, and waive patents rights. 

Many African nations have gone through third and fourth waves of the coronavirus pandemic and seen their health systems overwhelmed. The first mRNA vaccine-manufacturing hub in South Africa is a positive move following partnership from the private and public sector to help develop COVID-19 vaccines where they are needed most. This comes as many African nations have waited for access to adequate numbers of doses all year, with high-income countries hoarding vaccines rather than working to immunize the most vulnerable portions of society around the world. 

“In a shocking symbol of the west’s failure to honour its promise of equitable vaccine distribution, millions of Covid vaccines manufactured in Africa that should have saved the lives of Africans have been shipped to Europe in recent weeks,” Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of United Kingdom wrote in a by The Guardian newspaper publication.

We are calling for an end to the ever-growing vaccine inequality currently characterizing access to COVID-19 vaccination between the global north and the global south. Humanity is in a collective race against the virus and its variants. It is critical to use every tool at our disposal to end the pandemic everywhere.