Equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines a moral imperative

The yawning gap in coronavirus vaccine access is bluntly, morally unconscionable.

In Summary

• Epidemiologists know that several coronavirus variants are in circulation, and will continue to spread posing new challenges to the efficacy of existing vaccines. 

• The emerging inequity in access to coronavirus vaccines is no surprise. 

An estimated 72 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the United States of America.
An estimated 72 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the United States of America.
Image: REUTERS

The maniac frenzy around the SARS-Cov-2 vaccine and getting vaccines is totally understandable.

The so-called developed countries are in some sort of race to get a large proportion of their populations vaccinated.

Nearly 30 per cent of citizens in the United Kingdom have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

By February, about 84 per cent of Israelis aged above 70 had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

An estimated 72 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in the United States of America. The pace of vaccination is picking up in Europe.

In my part of the world, especially the low-income countries, there is not much going on yet.

Last Wednesday, February 24, Ghana become the first country outside India to receive 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine through the Covax Facility.

This was lauded as a historic step towards ensuring equitable access to vaccines.

It is not clear how many African countries have developed a Covid-19 National Deployment and Vaccination Plans, which is a prerequisite to receiving vaccines though the Covax Facility.

The emerging inequity in access to coronavirus vaccines is no surprise.

Inevitably, the wealthy countries have the resources to purchase and administer the vaccines and hopefully get their economies back to near normal, as normal can be in the age of Covid-19.

Conversely, low-income countries will wait at the back of the queue. Africa is expected to vaccinate 30 per cent of her population by the end of 2021.

An estimated 70 per cent of Americans will be vaccinated in the next nine months.

It does not matter whether the rich countries vaccinate their entire populations.

The fact is the pandemic will not be vanquished or eliminated anywhere until it is eliminated everywhere; especially Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Epidemiologists know that several coronavirus variants are in circulation, and will continue to spread posing new challenges to the efficacy of existing vaccines.

We know that the AstraZeneca/Oxford is not effective against the coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa.

No nation, no economic sector will go back to business as usual if the coronavirus is spreading in any part of the world.

The yawning gap in coronavirus vaccine access is bluntly, morally unconscionable.

It is to be brutally honest, not just vaccine nationalism but vaccine apartheid.

The international community – WHO, the United Nations and the G7 knew that poor nations would not get access to vaccines without assistance.

And all they did was dither. We will, all of us, pay a dear price if nothing is done to distribute vaccines globally and equitably.

It is heartening that the USA, Germany, EU, Japan and Canada have committed $4.3 billion to fund the equitable rollout of tests, treatments and vaccines through the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator partnership.

While this is a great step, there is still a funding gap of nearly $23 billion.

For nothing except common sense, morality and self-interest, citizens of wealthy nations must pressure their governments to fund equitable access to Covid-19 tests, therapeutics and vaccines.