Global vaccine equity key to ending COVID-19 pandemic – Manila Bulletin
If there aren’t enough countries coming together and committing to vaccine equity, COVID-19 will continue to evolve and humanity could be doomed to an endless pandemic.
It’s a race against time. While the first generation of vaccines demonstrated high levels of efficacy, these must be distributed as widely as possible to prevent the intrusion of more resistant variants.
As vaccines roll out, robust new variants of the novel coronavirus – from the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India continue to mutate – and trigger devastating outbreaks similar to those that have hit India recently. Getting vaccines into the arms of as many people in so many countries is imperative to prevent further serious epidemics.
“Vaccine hoarding” has been denounced in view of the apparent concentration of supplies in the United States and Europe where revolutionary vaccines were first developed and deployed.
In a recent United Nations Economic and Social Council online forum, the Philippines joined in lamenting the unfortunate state of the global COVID-19 vaccination, aligning itself with its ASEAN (Association of Nations Southeast Asia), the Non-Aligned Movement, and the G77 coalition at the United Nations which now consists of 124 countries.
“Simple humanity” and “simple biology” are two reasons why those living in the richest countries should worry about the extremely low vaccination rates in the poorest countries. Viruses cross borders and jump all over the world, infecting unwitting carriers who become viral transmitters.
As of April 2020, COVAX, an initiative to equitably distribute vaccines around the world, was formed through a partnership between Gavi, a 21-year international vaccine alliance and the Oslo-based Epidemic Preparedness Coalition (CEPI). . Despite their resource constraints, the Philippines pledged their support to COVAX early on. Last month, more than two million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the Philippines via the COVAX Facility. The Philippine ambassador to the United States has said the country will likely get a fair share of the 80 million doses President Biden has pledged to pay to COVAX.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed the Biden administration’s proposal to the World Trade Organization (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer expressed concern that this could disrupt the complex supply chain that supports its vaccine production schedule, citing that up to 280 different components are supplied by 86 suppliers in 19 countries. Moderna, who was alongside Pfizer in the race to be the first to obtain emergency use authorization, however stressed that “having the recipe to make the vaccine was not the same as having the ability to manufacture the vaccine “.
Returning to the home front, President Duterte has ordered equitable distribution to be ensured, while immunization efforts are currently focused on essential workers in the industrial and utility sectors. The protection of the population, and not “collective immunity”, is the new imperative.
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