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Mind the gap

The world’s seven richest nations and the European Union could help close the vaccine gap by sharing just 20 percent of their June, July and August stocks with the Covax jab scheme for poorer countries, a study by British firm Airfinity showed.

The UNICEF noted that those rich countries can afford to donate more than 150 million Covid-19 vaccines to countries in need without compromising their own goals.

The UNICEF made the appeal as the United Kingdom is due to host fellow G7 member states Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the USA for a summit in June. By that time, the Covax program being co-led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, along with the World Health Organization and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will find itself 190 million doses short of what it had planned to distribute.

The shortfall is in part due to a devastating flare-up of the virus in India, that was due to manufacture and export the majority of Covax doses but is now instead prioritizing its own citizens. With additional shortages in supply and funding, the statement called for swift action until more sustainable production models are within reach.

Some 44 percent of the 1.4 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far injected around the world have been administered in high-income countries accounting for 16 percent of the global population. Just 0.3 percent have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries, home to nine percent of the world’s population.

The yawning gap has spurred WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to ask vaccine-wealthy nations to refrain from giving jabs to children and adolescents and instead donate those doses to Covax.

The urgency stems from more than mere fairness as wherever the virus continues to circulate, it could give rise to more contagious or more deadly variants that could wipe out any progress toward global immunity. The UNICEF is concerned that the deadly spike in India could be a precursor to what can happen if those warnings remain unheeded.

As the world waits for the vaccine-rich countries to make the right decision, countries like the Philippines have to prepare so successful mass vaccinations can proceed as soon as the supply is secured. Multiple issues still have to be addressed, from storage, distribution, deployment and even the education and persuasion of an entire population to counter the prevalent vaccine hesitancy that could serve as a significant roadblock in the country’s quest to achieve herd immunity, hopefully with the same timeline as most of the civilized world.

While the vaccine gap is a serious problem that must be addressed by the countries who have amassed more than enough, the countries that are still waiting for the vaccines to arrive must start preparations so their contribution to minimizing the gap can begin with earnest as soon as the world works together to make the jabs available as soon as possible.*

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