Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday May 11, 2021
Poorer countries might not get vaccinated until 2023
High-income countries have purchased more than half of the Covid-19 vaccine supply to date, and low-income countries, just 9 percent, according to Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center. This is why a country like the US is close to vaccinating half its population with one dose while the rate in a place like Guinea is less than 1 percent and not budging.
If these glaring inequities in vaccine access continue, it will take at least two years for the world’s poorest countries, which couldn’t afford to compete for early doses of vaccines, to immunize the majority of their populations. And we’re on track for a long period where people in rich countries enjoy the benefits and safety of being fully immunized, while people in poorer countries continue to get sick and die from the coronavirus.
“That’s not just unconscionable, but it also is very much against the interests of high-income countries,” Georgetown global health law professor Lawrence Gostin told Vox in January. With the virus continuing to circulate, and variants picking up pace around the globe, outbreaks in the poorest countries will pose a threat to the world.
It’s not an accident that many of the world’s first-approved Covid-19 vaccines — from companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna — were developed and rolled out in high-income countries. As the pandemic took hold last year, wealthier nations — including the US, UK, and EU block — began making deals with the pharmaceutical companies that were developing Covid-19 vaccines, which also happened to be headquartered within their borders.
These bilateral deals involved governments essentially giving the companies billions of dollars to speed up research and development in exchange for priority access to vaccines, should they prove to be effective. But the deals also pushed poorer countries, which didn’t have the resources to pre-purchase millions of doses of vaccines that might not even get approved for market, further down the access line.
Rich countries could donate more doses to poorer countries — a move global health groups have been calling for for months and one that’s starting to happen in response to the crisis in India.
Rich countries could also simply start investing more in helping poorer countries respond to the crisis. They could answer Covax’s call for more donor funds, for example. Or Omer called for something akin to PEPFAR, America’s global health program to combat AIDS around the world. Launched under George W. Bush in 2003, to date, it’s provided $90 billion toward fighting AIDS. (Vox)