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Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Unequal Distribution Of Covid-19 Vaccines Among The Rich And Poor Countries

Worldwide distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine has begun as part of the battle against the pandemic. But data from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that a large dose of the vaccine has gone to wealthy countries. The doses circulated among the poor countries are estimated at just 1% of the world’s total supply of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Unequal Distribution Of Covid-19 Vaccines Among The Rich And Poor Countries

The main aim of the Covax scheme, which is led by the WHO along with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi) and the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi), is to provide an equal share of the vaccine to all nations. Covax has set a goal of delivering at least two billion doses of the vaccine to 190 countries within a year. It also aims at providing the 92 poor countries the doses of the vaccine at around the same time as the 98 wealthier countries. Experts suggest that the pandemic will end only when there is an equal dose of vaccination administered throughout the world.

Unequal Distribution Of Covid-19 Vaccines Among The Rich And Poor Countries

But data point towards a different picture. According to the Director-General of WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, 700 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed across the world. Out of this, only 0.2% has reached the countries with a low income, while countries with middle and high income have received more than 87%. This means that 1 in every 4 persons in high-income countries is vaccinated. This is in sharp contrast to the low-income countries where only 1 in 500 people have received a dose. 

The existing shortage of the Covax vaccines, coupled with political agendas and refusal of various countries in using the vaccine due to the possible side effects, has resulted in a huge inequality in the distribution of the vaccine. The wealthy countries, representing only 14% of the total population of the world, had purchased 53% of the vaccines for the virus.

The United Kingdom has received 400 million doses. The country reportedly plans to donate the surplus vaccine to the poorer countries. The richer countries must be able to supply 5% of the vaccine doses from their stock to the poorer countries, advises Emmanuel Macron, the President of France.

The AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Oxford University is what Covax is rolling out. Ghana was supplied with the first doses of the Covax vaccine in February of this year. High-income countries like Canada are scheduled to receive the early doses of the vaccine. But until now, the vaccine has been circulated among low-income countries like Africa’s Uganda, Algeria, and Malawi, Middle East’s Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran, and America’s El Salvador, Barbados, and Nicaragua.

The Covax scheme has received funding of $6bn so far. President Joe Bidden of the US undertook the signing of the country to the Covax as his first act after joining the office. The scheme is, however, still short of $2bn to attain its vaccination goal for 2021. This financial shortage might be overcome to some extent by the UK’S pledge of providing $4bn in December. So far, the country has contributed $734m towards the scheme.

Suggestions from the WHO are that the pandemic can stop only when 70% of the world population has immunity. Relying on vaccinations can take years to get 70% of the population vaccinated. And that too only when the rate of administration of the doses is set at two billion per year. 

Currently, vaccinations are unable to provide total control to the spread of the virus. But despite that, vaccinations are an important resource. They can help in boosting the immunity of a large part of the population, especially of the elderly, the health workers, and the vulnerable.

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