To end COVID-19, we need justice against vaccines for developing countries, not an obsolete charity


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We will never end the death and destruction of COVID-19 until we become real about vaccine equity. In a month of high-level meetings, from the G7 to the World Health Assembly, we have seen a lot of rhetoric from the global north and a lot of frustration and urgency from the global south, but there have not yet been substantial changes on how get the world vaccinated. Vaccines offer an incredible opportunity for science to overcome the virus, but we are now seeing the virus overcome our obsolete policy.

Around 0.8% of to all COVID vaccines distributed in the world . Most of the 1.65 trillion doses of vaccines administered have been in . We know this is a problem. Global coverage of it is imperative to prevent death and disease by COVID-19 and help stop new variants. If we do not resolve this imbalance, the threat of COVID-19 will never go away.

As we argue in BMJ Global Health, we can resolve this imbalance by calling for justice for vaccines. We must overcome the obsolete charitable models of poor countries, depending on rich countries for their remnants. Instead, we need to develop manufacturing and distribution capacity around the world to get vaccines where they are needed and fast.

For starters, the file it must stop promoting charitable models of sharing leftover vaccines and Covax. Sharing the leftovers is unsustainable and depends on the whim of each country, it often comes too little, too late. Commitments to the G7 they are fine, but it is too late and they mask the substantial problem of nationalism and vaccine hoarding.

Covax, the initiative created to prevent nationalism and vaccine hoarding, was doomed to failure from the start. It was created to ensure that all countries in the world have access to doses for 20% of their population by 2021, regardless of ability to pay.

Covax has been praised as effective model it offers. However, he already has three major problems. The first is perhaps the most obvious: doses for 20% of the population this year will never be enough to boost COVID-19 immunity quickly enough. The second is supply. India is the main supplier of Covax vaccines. The introduction of restrictions on India’s vaccine exports to help deal with its devastating outbreak limits supply to Covax. The third is perhaps more predictable: a significant funding deficit.

Charitable models like Covax are always underfunded. If they have insufficient funding in the short term, there is little hope in their funding in the medium and long term. We have seen it time and time again with funding initiatives from Make Poverty History to the health-related millennium development goals. Institutions will always go to the limit in states that will never pay in full.

Covax has become a political dead cat in global health. For all allegations of vaccine hoarding or lack of support to share , states use Covax as proof that they are committed to vaccinating the world. Covax is used as an example of good intentions, while at the same time being an excuse to block the transfer of technology and the approval of intellectual property exemptions to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Under i they are in it. That is why they are pushing for the resignation and suspecting efforts to get a new international pandemic preparedness treaty. These states accept Covax’s charity as the only offering on the table, but they know that the way out of their situation would be to make the vaccines themselves.

It doesn’t have to be that way

States must have the powers to produce their own vaccines and leverage prior knowledge about effective community vaccination and mobilization campaigns to stimulate uptake. The role of the international community should be to facilitate technology transfer, vaccine production capacity in the country and the development of vaccination campaigns in the country. Anything else is just a distraction.

A waiver of intellectual property for vaccines is within WTO rules according to the Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights Amendment (Travel) which was introduced at the height of the HIV / AIDS crisis. Countries could issue compulsory licenses and manufacture their own COVID-19 vaccines. Is to the rules. It is understandable that countries do not, as they fear punishment in the global trading system.

Intellectual property advocates suggest that low- and middle-income countries do not have the capacity to develop vaccines. This feels discriminated against in terms of what is seen as possible in poor countries.

If these advocates really believe this is so, put your money in your mouth and help increase capacity. Low- and middle-income countries can produce vaccines by transferring technology and investing in high-income countries and working with vaccine supply experts, such as Covax, to negotiate complex supply chains. Complex, yes. Impossible, no.

Pharmaceutical companies can be compensated with additional public funds. Your investment should not be out of your pocket. Since state funding was critical to stimulating research and development of COVID-19 vaccines, state funding can also be used to encourage . As head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, dit: “Vaccine policy is economic policy” and therefore investment in vaccines is good investments for states, given the threat of COVID-19 to the global economy.

A year ago, no one thought it would be possible to have safe, delivered vaccines against COVID-19. Public finance, private innovation and combined scientific efforts to show what could be possible. Let’s stop talking about charity and start making reality what will end this pandemic.

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