In an unequal world, it is deeply concerning but not surprising that COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out in an unequal way. Rich countries are well into the process of inoculating their populaces, while poorer countries are still on the starting blocks.
Richer countries are gobbling up the lion’s share of the vaccines and the vaccine inequality threatens to prolong the pandemic. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, data shows that rich nations representing just 14 percent of the world’s population have bought up 53 percent of all the most promising COVID-19 vaccines so far.
Wealthier nations have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their entire populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021.
In a disappointing move, rich countries recently blocked COVID-19 vaccines waiver at World Trade Organization. The richer countries blocked a push by over 80 developing countries on 10 March to waive patent rights in an effort to boost production of COVID-19 vaccines for poor nations.
Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, Anna Marriott, said:
“This is a massive missed opportunity to speed up and scale up the production of lifesaving vaccines worldwide by waiving the intellectual property barriers that prevent more qualified manufacturers from joining the effort.
“Rich countries are vaccinating at a rate of one person per second yet are siding with a handful of pharmaceutical corporations in protecting their monopolies against the needs of the majority of developing countries who are struggling to administer a single dose.
“It is unforgivable that while people are literally fighting for breath, rich country governments continue to block what could be a vital breakthrough in ending this pandemic for everyone in rich and poor countries alike”.
UNAIDS says, to control the virus, enough doses of vaccines need to be produced in different geographies, priced affordably, allocated globally and widely deployed for free in local communities. Thus far, the world is failing on all four fronts.
The series is a creative storytelling collaboration between This is Africa and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).