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COVID vaccine has been rolled out in the US, UK, Europe, Russia and China. India is also ready to start vaccinating its population with its own vaccine. The effectiveness of these vaccines in the real world will be determined with the long-term use.
As is the situation now, and it will be the same in the future, the number of countries who will manufacture vaccine will be a tiny few and they will become suppliers to the rest of the world. Let us say that out of 198 countries, probably 18 will produce for their own consumption and supply to other 180 countries. It is an extremely uneven distribution which will impact the availability and timelines of COVID vaccine for the public at large. As happened with the flu vaccine this year, the manufacturers did not provide a single unit to Pakistan this year. A similar situation would be there with many other countries. There is reason to believe that the non-manufacturing nations would be standing in the long queue for getting some doses of COVID vaccine.
Having said that, the world cannot be a safer place until a major portion of population is not vaccinated, ideally the entire lot. This is a huge task, one which is quite difficult to achieve for various reasons.
One, the vaccine is developed in the ‘developed’ countries who consider it their right to provide it to their own population first. It is not entirely immoral to do it. The right of first use should be respected.
Two, the cost of developing vaccine is enormous, as we hear. Commercial interest demands that this cost should be recovered, and profits should be earned. This is possible only through selling to the highest bidder. The developed countries have government supported medical care, and the resources to pay billions of dollars. Lesser developed countries neither have state-sponsored medical care nor their population can afford to pay high prices.
Three, the vaccine production facilities are largely located in the developed countries. Outside of them, it is India, China and Russia; all three having large populations of their own to cater to. Others will have to queue up anyway.
Four, the three vaccines approved in the west required sub-zero temperatures to store and carry. Such facilities are not readily available in most countries.
Five, two different technologies have been employed for developing COVID vaccine. Which one works better is what has to be seen in their use in the real-life conditions.
In a recent article published in Boston Review, the authors make the case that case for providing COVID vaccine to all people of the world is necessary not just on moral grounds but also on economic grounds. (the article link appears below). I would like to end this post on an excerpt from this article.[Quote]
Although vaccine development costs are high, the marginal cost of making a unit of a vaccine is usually low. In order to minimize losses resulting from a lack of vaccination—not merely of the direct losses to individual welfare as a result of not undergoing vaccination but also social welfare losses due to the continued prevalence of the disease—a vaccine should be sold at or below the cost of its production. It should also be brought to market as soon as possible, on a scale sufficient to provide for the world’s entire population. The easiest way to achieve this is to make its formula freely available, so that any manufacturer in the world can produce it, thereby keeping costs down and maximizing output. Governments and philanthropic foundations are already making investments in increased vaccine production capacity, but this effort is less likely to be needed if the formula is made available to all willing manufacturers. Efficient and equitable pricing is likely to be easily achieved by eliminating the arbitrary barrier created by intellectual property. This approach to a people’s vaccine harnesses the power of private initiative and the market.[Unquote]