A world without COVID-19 will not be achievable unless everyone has equitable access to vaccines, according to health experts. More than 4.6 million people have died as a result of the virus since it began spreading over the world in early 2020, but the rate of deaths is likely to drop if more people get vaccinated.
Developed countries are significantly more likely than developing ones to vaccinate their citizens, thereby prolonging the pandemic and exacerbating global inequality. UN News outlines the importance of vaccine equity ahead of a meeting between senior UN officials on Monday at the UN.
Simply put, it implies that everyone, regardless of where they live in the world, should have equal access to a vaccine that protects them from the COVID-19 infection.
WHO has set a global aim of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population by mid-2022, however achieving this objective will necessitate more equitable vaccination access.
The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that vaccine equity was neither rocket science nor charity but good public health and in everyone’s interest.
Aside from the ethical argument that no country or individual is more deserving of assistance than another, regardless of wealth or poverty, infectious disease like COVID-19 will continue to be a worldwide menace as long as it exists anywhere on the planet.
Inequitable vaccine distribution not only exposes millions or billions of people to the dangerous virus, but also allows for the emergence and spread of even more deadly versions around the world.
Vaccine disparity, according to the UN, will have a long-term impact on low- and lower-middle-income countries’ socioeconomic recovery and will impede progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). According to the UNDP, by 2030, eight out of ten people who were directly forced into poverty as a result of the pandemic will be living in the world’s poorest countries.
According to estimates, COVID-19’s economic effects in low-income nations could persist until 2024, while high-income countries could achieve pre-COVID-19 per capita GDP growth rates by the end of this year.
Furthermore, unequal vaccine distribution will exacerbate inequality and widen the gap between affluent and poor people, reversing decades of hard-won progress in human development.
According to research, enough vaccinations will be produced in 2021 to cover 70% of the world’s 7.8 billion people. Most vaccinations, on the other hand, are being reserved for wealthier countries, while other vaccine-producing countries are banning vaccine exports in order to ensure that their own citizens get vaccinated first, a strategy nicknamed “vaccine nationalism.” One illustration of this trend has been the decision by certain countries to distribute booster vaccines to already inoculated individuals rather than prioritizing doses for unvaccinated people in poorer countries.
The good news is that, according to WHO figures, more than 5.5 billion doses have been provided worldwide as of September 15, albeit considering that most vaccines require two shots, the number of people who are protected is substantially fewer.
Vaccine equity is undoubtedly critical, and life is returning to some degree of normalcy for many people in many wealthy nations, even though some pandemic protocols remain in place. The position in developing countries is more difficult. While the delivery of vaccines under the COVAX Facility is being applauded around the world, inadequate health systems, especially the scarcity of health workers, are contributing to rising access and distribution issues on the ground.
And equity difficulties do not go away once vaccines are physically distributed in a country; discrepancies in vaccine distribution may still exist in some countries, both affluent and poor.
It’s also worth remembering that universal health coverage and affordable essential medicines and vaccines are central to the Sustainable Development Goals, specifically SDG 3 on good health and well-being, which calls for universal health coverage and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all.