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COVID Vaccine: is a fair distribution possible?

One of the most unprecedented pandemics of the era which has crashed the world economy and has cost millions of lives globally is now approaching its end; with dozens of pharmaceutical companies coming up with the COVID vaccine. But now a new dilemma is puzzling the world; having billions of people to vaccinate and limited vaccines, who will get vaccinated and who will be left out? Will there be a fair distribution of the vaccines that the entire world is pinning hope on?

With more than 55.6 million confirmed cases and 1.34 million deaths; how will the leaders decide who deserves to get vaccinated first? Will unbiased distribution of the vaccine globally be possible; or only the capable one will enjoy the leverage of COVID antibodies in their DNA?

The global dash of pre-booking the COVID vaccine

In the recently published reports, two vaccines candidates; by Pfizer and Moderna are showing a promising result of more than 90% effectiveness against the coronavirus. Along with these two, a dozen other vaccines nominees are on the last stage of their human trials. If everything goes well; the world will have more than one vaccines against this contagious virus by then end of this year.

These reports came out as the greatest scientific news of the year. As soon as the results were published, hurtling for pre-booking of vaccine doses proliferated throughout the world. Though none of the vaccines is approved yet; leaders around the world have started purchasing in advance knowing that only limited doses will be available once the vaccine gets consented.

According to the Duke University, North Carolina; till now about 6.4 billion doses of the vaccine candidates providing propitious result have been bought. 3.2 billion doses are still kept either under negotiation or reserved.

Till now the US, the EU, the UK, India and Canada are the countries which possess the maximum number of vaccine bookings. On this, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says; “it is understandable that leaders want to protect their own people first – they are accountable to their citizens – but the response to this global pandemic must be collective”.

Why pre-booking the COVID vaccine is problematic?

Pre-booking or advance purchasing in the field of pharmacy is deep-rooted. It provides the research institutes and pharmaceutical companies with the funding required for development and clinical trials of the vaccine. But in times like these where the entire world is affixing their hope in one single vaccine, pre-booking becomes problematic.

Countries who are capable of paying the highest sum at the earliest stage will only be able to procure vaccines for their citizen; leaving the low and middle-income countries as vulnerable to the virus as before. And this is exactly what is happening with the COVID vaccine candidates, according to Duke University’s study “vast majority” of the vaccine is going to high-income countries.

The vaccine developing countries can also put any price tag on their product and the government will be condemned to buy them. Moderna has disclosed their price for each dose; Stephane Bancel, chief executive said, “Our vaccine, therefore, costs about the same as a flu shot which is between $10 and $50”.

A few middle-income countries are negotiating for the vaccine in return for manufacturing deals and hosting clinical trials. Mexico and Brazil are using these leverage for sake of securing their share of the vaccines in future.

Furthermore, the vaccine developing countries will save a considerable proportion for domestic supply; for example, Serum Institute in India has announced to keep half of the doses for the country’s use and only other half will be open for bidding.

The biased distribution of vaccines is nothing new, for instance, 90% of all the pharmaceutical products are consumed by 10% of the world’s population; each year 20 million infants globally live under insufficient vaccine supply, WHO. Wealth plays its role everywhere, but the hustle for COVID vaccines is calling for an unbiased global distribution plan.

An unbiased distribution plan

COVAX, a plan seeking for an unbiased distribution of the COVID vaccine is a cumulative initiative by GAVI, the WHO and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The motive of the plan is to obtain vaccine enough for vaccinating at the rock-bottom of 20% of the vulnerable population.

The plan needs $2 billion to purchase enough vaccines to facilitate 92 eligible (low-income) countries. Till now about 186 countries have become part of the distribution plan; the vaccine AstraZeneca, developed by Oxford University is also a part of the plan.

The extraordinary condition

In this time of the pandemic, it is understandable that every leader will want to save their own people; but one thing that the coronavirus pandemic is demanding from the very beginning is solidarity. The contagious viral pandemic can only end with collective decisions. “We are only safe if we are all safe, so in that circumstance, leaders need to be thinking both of those issues” Duke researcher Ms Taylor.