Vaccine Hoarding: A tale of two sides of the world

Written By: Mohammad Sifat

In an ideal world, “Vaccine for All” campaign might be a well-suited phrase. But situations in the real world are far from the anticipated. The global perspective suggests, in low-income countries, the majority of the people have barely been vaccinated with the first dose. According to the Our World in Data project at Oxford University, Only 31.7 percent of the world’s population has received a single dose of vaccination, and only 23.7 percent are fully vaccinated. Only about 10% of people in developing nations have got a single vaccination shot. It’s even worse in Africa, where Covid-19 kills 25 people every minute.

Access to vaccines for all is rapidly becoming a global concern at all international conferences, and it has surpassed climate change at the current United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. It’s been 18 months since the epidemic began, and “it’s evident the world will be infested with Covid-19—and its numerous variant successors—for years to come,” according to the researchers.

“No one is secure unless we are all safe,” African countries still waiting for their first COVID-19 dose reminded international leaders at the United Nations General Assembly, as wealthier countries debate whether to give their citizens a third COVID-19 shot. As the difference in vaccination distribution became more apparent, that warning was repeated throughout the day in the conference on 23 September. 

Chad’s president Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno stated in the General Assembly that, “The virus doesn’t know continents, borders, even less nationalities or social statuses,”

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa remarked, “It is an indictment on humanity that more than 82 percent of the world’s vaccine doses have been acquired by wealthy countries, while less than 1 percent has gone to low-income countries.”

On 24 September, during a global vaccination summit held virtually on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Biden announced that the US would double its purchase of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to share with the world to 1 billion doses, with the goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population within the next year. 

However, global health experts have criticized Biden’s pledge as “insufficient” because the distribution of this batch would not begin until January 2022 at the earliest.

Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) was developed by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, to acquire and distribute vaccines equally. However, most of the vaccine development, production, procurement, and distribution are done on the fly, resulting in inconsistency and dispute.

Pharmaceutical firms have been criticized for knowledge hoarding, secret pricing, disproportionate profits, unfair bilateral agreements, and aggressive demands for liability indemnity. COVAX has been criticized for a lack of transparency and accountability and for disregarding the need for the Covid-19 vaccination. 

Inequitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations demonstrates how a lack of accountability is ruining multilateral organizations. Moreover, the absence of financial contributions to the COVAX program has not been the primary cause of supply constraints in most lower-income countries.

They’re mostly caused by vaccine hoarding, which has occurred in several high-income countries.

The worldwide distribution of covid vaccines has been extremely inequitable this year. The implementation has been a two-speed process, with richer countries taking the lead. As a result, only about 2% of adults are fully vaccinated in low-income nations, compared to 50% in high-income countries. According to a new study from Airfinity, a life sciences data firm, if rich countries do not disperse surplus vaccines this year, between 1 million and 2.8 million lives could be lost.

More than 1 billion doses are reliably manufactured each month, and that number will continue to rise this year. As a result, 1.5 billion doses of covid vaccination will be produced worldwide by November 2021. This figure exceeds the total number of vaccines produced in the first four months of this year. By the middle of next year, if current production rates continue, there will be a vaccine surplus. The world will produce around 12 billion doses this year, and by June 2022, it will produce the same number again. As a result, only 11.3 billion doses are required to properly vaccinate 80% of the population over the age of 12.

Despite this, Covax, the world’s largest vaccine importer and provider to developing countries, has failed to obtain hold of the doses it has purchased, shipping only 230 million this year. However, It is confronted with a number of challenges.

Most Africans have not yet had their first vaccination as the UK prepares to vaccinate everyone over 50 years old for the third time. The international community had set a goal of vaccinating 40% of Africa’s population by the end of the year, but Covax has just disclosed that it has been obliged to curtail its deliveries to Africa by about 150 million doses, leaving only enough vaccine to cover 17% of the continent this year. At the time of the most recent survey, 82 percent of Britons aged 16 and up had been vaccinated.

There is also another concern, as Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and recently appointed WHO Ambassador, highlighted lately. According to a study by Airfinity, 100 million vaccination doses are approaching their expiration date. If there is no quick plan in place to get them to countries that need them, they will be destroyed.

He yelled, “It is unthinkable and unconscionable that 100 million vaccines will have to be thrown away from the stockpiles of the rich countries, while the people of the world’s poorest countries will pay the price in lives lost for our vaccine waste.”

As a resident of a third-world country, I cannot but anticipate that the rich countries might wait until next year to administer the third vaccine to a large portion of their populations, guaranteeing that the world’s most vulnerable individuals will receive their first vaccination before the end of 2021.

But where does Bangladesh stand amid all such calculations? 

By October 5, nearly 17.3 million people were fully vaccinated. That encompasses only 10.5% of the population of the mass populated country. But the growth of vaccination is higher here than in most third world countries. Indeed, there are few expectations too. Recently, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Bangladesh  government, China’s Sinopharm and Bangladesh’s Incepta Pharmaceuticals Ltd for the co-production of Covid-19 vaccine. According to prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s direction, Bangladesh will produce 10 million doses a month in the next two months. The Government is opting to ensure vaccination of 80-85% people by July next year. If these goals are reached properly Bangladesh may achieve herd immunity and get back to the much anticipated normal world soon. 

Our world is nothing but intimately connected and covid has cleared it before our eyes. Spanning out from China’s Wuhan province to mutating as the fatal form Delta variant Covid has taken a toll on the whole world. But now, We are endangering our world by selfishly neglecting the plight of the world’s poorest nations.


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Featured Image Courtesy: The Wire

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