Vaccines are undoubtedly the best hope the world has of bringing the COVID-19 pandemic under control with global infections fast approaching 100 million. But will the distribution of vaccines maximize their ability to stem the devastation of the pandemic? Vaccines are in short supply. How the limited vaccines are allocated will likely make a difference to the global fight against the novel coronavirus.
Statistics from the World Health Organization indicate that 39 million doses of vaccines have been administered in 49 high-income countries while only 25 vaccine doses have been provided in one poor country. To be exact, 95 percent of the vaccines available have been acquired by 10 developed countries.
Little wonder WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus lamented that rich countries are rolling out vaccination programs while the world's least-developed countries watch and wait.
That younger, healthier adults in rich countries get vaccinated before older people in poorer countries is, he said, "not right".
It may seem reasonable that those developed countries that developed the vaccines are justified in using the vaccines for their own people first and foremost. But the unequal distribution of vaccines could be consequential to the overall global fight against the pandemic.
The fact that the virus knows no borders and the pandemic will in no way be brought under control unless the infection rate is brought down globally suggests that the equal allocation of vaccines matters for the world to effectively stem the spread of the virus. If the pandemic is allowed to continue running rampant as it is in the developing countries, the virus may mutate and the new strains of the virus may compromise the effectiveness of the vaccines.
As a result, the effectiveness of vaccines as a shield against infection could be compromised if the vaccines are not distributed to all countries. If that becomes a reality, not only will the efforts and the money put into the development of the vaccines be in vain, but also the global fight against the pandemic will be put at risk.
Nor should it be forgotten that if the virus continues to devastate the global economy, even the developed countries will further suffer. A study commissioned by the Research Foundation of the International Chamber of Commerce representing more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries suggests that vaccine nationalism could cost the global economy up to $9.2 trillion, almost half of that incurred by the wealthiest economies.
Vaccine nationalism has pulled the wool over the eyes of politicians in developed countries, and they fail to see how injurious it is. Concerted global efforts with the support of the equal allocation of the vaccines are the way to finally win the war against the virus and revive the world economy.