World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown support towards India and South Africa against their stand on Vaccine Nationalism.Embed from Getty Images
Ever since the Covid-19 virus has taken over the world, the wealthier countries such as the U.S.A, France, Japan, Germany, the European Union, UK, etc., have signed a pre-purchase deal with companies trying to develop the vaccine for the deadly virus. Companies such as Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca have signed an agreement for 1.5 billion doses of the vaccine with wealthier countries, even before the conclusion of the final human trials. Such contracts would make it difficult for the middle- income countries to procure the potential vaccine. These practices would also make the vaccine much more unaffordable due to high demand.
The pre-purchase deals between the government and manufacturers would result in uneven distribution of the Covid -19 vaccine. Countries who managed to strike a deal with the manufacturers would ensure enough vaccine for its domestic population, and this would result in delayed delivery of the vaccine to much severely affected countries. In comparison, the vaccine should be made available to the worst affected countries first.
A similar trend was noticed during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Several wealthier countries made a pre-purchase agreement with Australia, the country the developed the vaccine for the H1N1 virus. The H1N1 vaccines were made available to the poorer countries much later, through donations from the wealthier nations.
We need to understand that the H1N1 virus’s impact was much lesser than the deadly Covid-19 vaccine. The Covid-19 virus has brought the world economy down on its knees and is continuing to burden the healthcare systems across the globe.
To tackle the Vaccine Nationalism issue, WHO has proposed an initiative called the Covax Facility. The facility would ensure the distribution of 2 billion doses of Covid-19 to low and middle-income nations. This initiative was taken as there is no international law against this unethical practice of pre-purchase agreement. Nearly 170 countries have extended support for this initiative by WHO.
Recently, the Health Ministry of India has expressed its concern regarding the pre-purchase deals and stated that India is very much capable of procuring the covid vaccine for its citizens, but the world needs to focus on poor countries.
India and South Africa have initiated a joint proposal at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to ensure equal access to the Covid-19 vaccine. India and South Africa have suggested the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights or TRIPS, a WTO council to recline specific rules such as patents, industrial designs, and copyright to ensure speedy and equal procurement of the Covid-19 vaccine.Embed from Getty Images
This initiative was supported by WHO and even appreciated this proposal. TRIPS council took up the proposal for discussion on 15th and 16th October 2020. The proposal was rejected by the U.S.A, European Union, Canada, Japan, UK, Australia, Switzerland. Countries such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, and African countries have supported the proposal. China, Turkey, the Philippines, and Colombia have withheld their decisions.
Nearly 379 Civil Society Organisations such as Oxfam, Campaign MSF, People’s Vaccine Alliance, etc. have written letters to WTO in favor of the proposal put forward by India and South Africa and stated that this proposal would act as a bridge between the supply and demand gaps in procuring medical products for manufacturing the potential Covid-19 vaccine and eradicating the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.