Topics Covered: Issues related to health.
United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) president-elect and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has warned against Vaccine nationalism and said that it would destroy countries’ efforts to eradicate the pandemic and must be avoided “at all costs”.
- He termed the disparity in vaccination coverage in developed countries and the rest of the world “unacceptable”.
What is vaccine nationalism?
- Vaccine nationalism occurs when a country manages to secure doses of vaccine for its own citizens or residents before they are made available in other countries.
- This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.
How was it used in the past?
Vaccine nationalism is not new. During the early stages of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, some of the wealthiest countries entered into pre-purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies working on H1N1 vaccines.
- At that time, it was estimated that, in the best-case scenario, the maximum number of vaccine doses that could be produced globally was two billion.
- The US alone negotiated and obtained the right to buy 600,000 doses. All the countries that negotiated pre-purchase orders were developed economies.
Why it’s not good? What are the associated concerns?
- Vaccine nationalism is harmful for equitable access to vaccines.
- It further disadvantages countries with fewer resources and bargaining power.
- It deprives populations in the Global South from timely access to vital public health goods.
- Taken to its extreme, it allocates vaccines to moderately at-risk populations in wealthy countries over populations at higher risk in developing economies.
What needs to be done?
Equity entails both, affordability of vaccines and access opportunities for populations across the world, irrespective of geography and geopolitics.
International institutions — including the WHO — should coordinate negotiations ahead of the next pandemic to produce a framework for equitable access to vaccines during public health crises.
What is the way out?
Vaccine Diplomacy: Vaccine diplomacy is the branch of global health diplomacy in which a nation uses the development or delivery of vaccines to strengthen ties with other nations.
India’s vaccine diplomacy:
- India had earlier supplied hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries to help them deal with the pandemic.
- India has also carried out capacity building and training workshops for neighbouring countries.
However, the Centre had imposed in April this year, some restrictions on exports, potentially undoing the goodwill earned earlier by free supply of vaccines to friendly developing countries and by its substantial contribution to the international COVAX programme to supply vaccines to lower-income countries.
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What is Vaccine Nationalism? What are the concerns associated? Discuss.
Sources: the Hindu.