This month Britons, Americans, and Canadians started issuing the approved coronavirus vaccine. This move’s initiation showed that the route out of the pandemic began to clear up for many in the West even though achieving herd immunization will take many months to accomplish. But for those in poorer nations, especially in Africa, the road seems will be far longer and rougher.
The COVAX Initiative
Poor countries placed all their hopes on acquiring coronavirus shots on the COVAX initiative. The World Health Organization started COVAX with the vaccines alliance CEPI and GAVI, a global coalition to fight epidemics. The organizations created the COVAX initiative to prevent an international stampede for vaccines when a vaccine would be available. The initiative would ensure that the entire world would have access to COVID-19 vaccines by sharing them fairly amongst all nations.
But the outbreak of the virus and the fact that it has caused the deaths of over 1.6 million individuals has caused little or no solidarity amongst different countries. With vaccine supplies limited, some rich nations in the West have cleared out the supply. This has made it hard for COVAX to secure the COVID-19 vaccines required for circulation. Currently, the initiative has only secured a fraction of the 2 billion doses it hopes to buy and is yet to acquire any means to ship out vaccines as their pockets dry up.
Meanwhile, some developed countries that even funded the research to acquire a vaccine with taxpayer money continue buying up nearly all the vaccines available. These nations say they are under tremendous pressure from their citizens. The citizens require them to offer protection to their own population after utilizing funds to get a vaccine. Their actions leave poorer countries that signed up for the COVAX initiative stranded. All that is left to do is look for alternatives as they fear that the organization won’t deliver.
Poorer Nations Start abandoning COVAX
Pharmaceutical industries expect to produce approximately 12 billion doses of the vaccine next year. Wealthy nations have already reserved about 9 billion of these shots for their populations. The call for solidarity by the World Health Organization is clearly lost. If the vaccine’s circulation occurs favoring the prosperous nations, COVAX will get the vaccines fairly late. Even the senior officials at WHO acknowledged privately that attempts by COVAX to allocate vaccines fairly are flawed.
Now, most Africans criticize the Western countries for buying up all the global vaccine supply. Meanwhile, African countries struggle with COVAX efforts to acquire a few. Some countries like Canada even plan on buying the vaccine in excess. Their plan involves purchasing more vaccines than they need, while some nations lack any treatment. Some experts argue that if people in poorer nations are left unprotected, then a reservoir of coronavirus will be created that could spark new outbreaks at any time.
With the realization that COVAX can’t deliver, some developing countries have started pulling out of the deal with the initiative. For instance, Palau announced this month that it would abandon COVAX and get vaccines from the United States instead. Low and middle-income countries like Peru, Malaysia, and Bangladesh, on the other hand, have chosen to stay in the initiative. They have, however, struck other deals with drugmakers as a Plan B.