Billions of people around the world expect vaccines to stop Covid-19, but nationalism could make the fight against pandemic stumbling.
Governments around the world were unable to unite in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. This is most clearly seen in the race to develop the nCoV vaccine. Instead of trying to cooperate, many countries are looking to win to become the first to obtain the vaccine.
According to Washington Post commentator Adam Taylor, “vaccine nationalism” won another victory this week, when the US announced it would not participate in the Covid-19 Global Access to Vaccine (Covax) project, run by the Group. World Health Organization (WHO) sponsorship. Covax is a global collaborative plan to speed vaccine development, secure doses for all countries, and distribute them to the most at-risk populations.
The US absence is a major blow to the project’s effort to overcome inequality in vaccination. More than 170 countries are negotiating to join Covax, a project supported by traditional US allies such as Germany, Japan and the European Commission.
A volunteer tests the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna in Detroit, USA last month. Photo: AFP.
However, the US is not alone in this choice. Many other countries have also pursued unilateral plans, focusing on producing vaccines for domestic use or buying potential vaccines from other countries.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said on September 1 that the US was not “restricted by multilateral organizations influenced by WHO and China”. Instead, the Trump administration will ramp up its own vaccine development project called Operation Speed, a multi-billion dollar effort to get the vaccine as early as this fall.
Russia also refused to join the Covax plan. Russia has injected Sputnik V, the world’s first registered Covid-19 vaccine, to teachers and healthcare workers, although many Western countries accuse Moscow of “burning up” trials. Russia has denied these allegations, claiming their vaccines are safe and fully tested.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hoa Xuan Anh said on September 2 that Beijing would support and coordinate with the Covax project, but did not make any commitments to this plan.
Covax supporters remain upbeat to point out that many other rich countries are backing the initiative. But as the development period drags on and the terms change, the project may not be as much as the expectations of many people.
Taylor says it is important to consider why vaccine nationalism seems to be prevailing. International cooperation efforts are often unable to find a solution at a speedy pace. Some countries may use the excuse that they may later join Covax if it succeeds.
If a country develops its own vaccine locally or orders millions of doses overseas, it gets first access to the vaccine. For rich countries, benefits are placed in front of humanitarian risks and concerns.
The US has invested $ 10 billion in potential vaccine candidates, according to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. This is a “bargain” if compared to the trillions of dollars spent on financial aid packages, at the same time, it is also likely to have a great impact on the US presidential election results in November.
If a country develops a vaccine successfully, it will have a chance to distribute it to many other countries. For China, this is a great opportunity to restore its global position. Russia and the United States may also be pursuing this goal, with many countries turning their backs on them.
Some experts think vaccine competition is healthy and even a good idea in some ways. “Competition between countries often leads to innovation. This is absolutely true in the Cold War space race, or scientific breakthroughs, from radar to missiles, in World War II”, Matthew Lynn wrote in this week’s Spectator post.
However, most vaccine researchers disagree. The race to space can lead to “a great leap for humanity” when bringing humans to the Moon, but few people forget that the astronaut taking that step is American. It’s not hard to see poorer countries that could be left behind in the vaccine race.
The Wall Street Journal on September 1 reported that several major countries have reached agreements to provide each other with nearly 4 billion doses of the developing nCoV vaccine, accounting for nearly all of the world’s production and leaving only very little. less for poor countries, despite the rapid spread of COV among the developing world group.
The supply problem is just beginning. “In the vaccine supply chain there are some unusual links such as horseshoe crab blood, shark liver oil and an enzyme that is said to be among the most expensive in the world,” said Scott Duke Kominers and Alex Tabarrok, two. The economist wrote in a Bloomberg post last month. “Some other links are dependent on a new production process that has never been widely deployed”.