Topic: General Studies 2:
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countrieson India’s interests, Indian diaspora
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Even before the end of final stage human trials or regulatory approval, several wealthier countries like Britain, France, Germany and the US have entered into pre-purchase agreements with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers
- When a country manages to secure doses of vaccines for its own citizens or residents and prioritises its own domestic markets before they are made available in other countries it is known as ‘vaccine nationalism’
- The reason countries are going for pre-purchase agreements is because of the longer duration for companies to manufacture such vaccines. It is predicted that worldwide supply may not reach 1 billion doses until the first quarter of 2022
Ethical Conundrum: Vaccine nationalism runs against global public health principles, there are no provisions in international laws that prevent pre-purchase agreements.
Impact of such actions
- Inequitable Access: Such advance agreements will make the initial few vaccines unaffordable and inaccessible to everyone apart from the rich countries
- Deepens the Crisis: Nations hoarding possible Covid-19 vaccines while excluding others would deepen the pandemic.
- Slows Global Economic Recovery:If countries with a large number of cases lag in obtaining the vaccine, the disease will continue to disrupt global supply chains and, as a result, economies around the world.
Is Vaccine Nationalism New?
- A similar situation happened in 2009 during the H1N1 flu pandemic.
- Australia, the first country to come up with a vaccine, blocked exports while some of the wealthiest countries entered into pre-purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies.
- The US alone obtained the right to buy 600,000 doses.
- It was only when the H1N1 pandemic began to recede that developed countries offered to donate vaccine doses to poorer economies.
- However, it must be noted that H1N1 was a milder disease and its impact was far lesser than Covid-19
Alternative Path: Global Collaboration – Sharing finite supplies strategically & globally.
- WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi have come up with an initiative known as “Covax Facility”.
- The facility aims to procure at least two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year for deployment and distribution mainly in the low- and middle-income countries.
- So far, more than 170 countries have expressed interest: about 90 low- and middle-income countries and 80 fully self-financing countries.
- The countries who join the initiative are assured supply of vaccines whenever they become successful.
- Moreover, the countries will get assured supplies to protect at least 20 per cent of their populations.