It was only two days ago that the World Health Organisation warned against Vaccine Nationalism. The WHO was forced to come out with such a warning after rich countries such as the United States, UK, France and Germany entered into purchase contracts with Coivid-19 manufacturers. The countries started the spree even before the human trials were conclusive on the vaccine.
What significance does the warning against vaccine nationalism have? This has added to the fear that these movements by a small group of rich countries will make vaccines unaffordable and inaccessible to everyone across the world. WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has called for preventing vaccine nationalism.
Meanwhile, the WHO, GAVI and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations have jointly started an initiative called “Covax Facility” for the global equitable access to Covid 19 vaccine. Covax aims to procure about two billion doses of the vaccine by next year and distribute mainly in low and middle income countries.
What is Vaccine Nationalism?
It is a term used when a country goes to secure doses of vaccines for its own citizens and prioritises its own domestic markets before they are made available in other countries. All this is done through pre-purchase agreements between the government of a country and manufacturers. The United States, European Union, Japan and UK have already spent billions of dollars for the vaccine with Pfizer Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson and Johnson.
The poor countries and those with less bargaining power and resources are at disadvantage. The countries with larger affected cases will not get the vaccine. This will only lead to more spread of the disease in that country. The rich country only gets the advantage and the poor ones suffer.
It is not that the world is seeing Vaccine nationalism for the first time. In 2009, the world saw a similar rush during the HINI flu pandemic. Australia was the first country to bring out the vaccine. However, it blocked exports of the vaccine. Later only the rich countries could get the vaccine after they entered into pre-purchase agreement with vaccine companies. The poor countries could only get the HINI vaccine after the pandemic slowed down in the wealthy nations. By the time the vaccine reached the poor nations, HINI flu had already taken a toll with more the 20 million affected and as many as 8,00,000 dead worldwide.