Global vaccine inequity is an ever-growing concern due to the sensitivity of the health issue. Wealthy countries tend to invest a lot in their healthcare sector and are therefore at the upper hand in the event of a pandemic. However, developing countries tend to get left behind due to a lack of disaster preparedness measures. This research focuses on the disparities in the distribution of vaccines during a pandemic and how all the involved stakeholders can solve these disparities. The research further looks at the gaps in solving the inequality of vaccines around the globe. The research focuses on different works during the swine flu pandemic and the covid-19 pandemic.
The global vaccine inequity refers to the gap in the distribution of vaccines between rich and developing countries. The issue of inequity has been a rising issue over the past years, with a rise in the number of diseases affecting both the rich and developing countries. In the summer of 2009, with the emergence of the swine flu, a new virus that started in Mexico affected many people around the globe. The cases increased, and the resulting deaths resulted in the pandemic being declared pandemic. After the pandemic declaration, most rich countries started negotiating contracts with manufacturing companies of vaccines to get the not-yet-existing vaccine (VOA, 2021). To deal with the issue, the world health organization attempted to avoid hoarding by negotiating with the rich countries to share portions of the vaccines to poorer countries and leverage the influence of the developed countries (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 9). With the growth of the pandemic, the figures showed that under 80 million doses were given out to 77 countries which were fewer than the total vaccines given to the United States (Liao, 2021). The rest of the promised vaccines only became released after it was realized that the vaccine was less feared than before. The inequity has continued to prevail even after the experience in 2009.
During the covid-19 pandemic, after the first vaccines were released, it was evident that the rich countries bought the first batch hungrily, and it was evident that stockpiling could happen. Most rich countries started going into advanced contracts with the vaccine manufacturers by having the upper hand before the developing countries could develop a chance to get the vaccine. In February 2021, Canada received enough vaccines for its population when developing countries had not even got a chance to contract with the manufacturing companies.
From the information posted by the global dashboard for vaccine equity, a collaborative group which consists of the Oxford University, the United Nations, and WHO, less than 9 percent of the citizens in low-income countries were vaccinated with one dose as of December 2021 (Ghebreyesus, 2021, p. 33). This was contrary to the first world countries such as the United States, which was rolling out doses to its citizens for the third time at super high speed. This inequity in the distribution of the vaccine has resulted in poorer countries remaining down economically due to the situations of pandemics (York, 2021). Global vaccine inequity has brought about many health disparities and slow growth of economies of developing countries.
The vaccination inequity globally has resulted in the slow growth of economies, with many countries having to shut down their economies during pandemics. The lack of resources to face wealthier countries makes the poorer countries remain at the back of the queues in getting the vaccines. The vaccine nationalism has been pointed to as the leading cause of the gaping chasm where the countries’ leaders first put the interest of their fellow citizens and that of other countries later (Ghebreyesus, 2021, p. 12). The unity that is present before pandemics is not seen during the time of the pandemic. According to a comparison of the scenario by a Lecturer at global health and philosophy, Sridhar Venkatapuram, it is similar to a crashing airplane. One should first wear an oxygen mask before helping others (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 16). This is a similar game that people were playing where they put their countries and people first before showing affection to others.
Most developing countries are lagging in terms of their healthcare systems since, in most cases, they are poor (York, 2021). This means that in the event of a pandemic, they have minimal resources to purchase the virus and further control the growth of the pandemic (Liao, 2021). Such issues are connected to the lack of access to water and further efforts in dealing with the spread of the disease (Myerson, 2021). One further issue is dealing with the issue of having oxygen supplies for the people when the system of healthcare is already considered fragile.
The inequity gap
During a pandemic, the income gap usually widens, and as a result, there is also a gap in the vaccines supplied. In manufacturing countries, the vaccines still have prices, and the distribution of the vaccines also incurs an additional cost. The figures are usually, on average, very affordable for countries such as the United States (Torres, 2021). The high-income countries already have top-notch healthcare systems that they have significantly invested in. In the event of a pandemic, the countries only have to increase the spending by less than 1 %, which amounts to the total amount required to vaccinate over 70 % of the population (Myerson, 2021). However, for developing countries, during a pandemic, they have to start with essential steps such as water installations, seeking oxygen supplies, and improvement of the facilities, in general, to be able to deal with the pandemic (Torres, 2021). The lack of preparedness and resources makes the problem-solving problem remain.
Cost of free vaccine
Around the globe, the distribution of vaccines and the technicalities behind the process is controlled by pharmaceutical companies around the globe. The process is highly unethical since the manufacturing of the vaccines is, in most cases, done through the use of public funds, which are developed through a global association (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 22). The most renowned companies, such as Pfizer, are expected to earn a huge portion which is more than double the company forecasted in 2021 (Torres, 2021). The companies have tried to make an effort where they make efforts to provide the vaccine at a non-profit price. The inequity in the distribution of vaccines is an issue that affects many countries, mainly based on the wealth of these countries. Through the inequity, most middle-income and low-income countries tend to experience slow growth of the economy and further loss of lives due to the delay in access to vaccines. The inequity gap is experienced during the pandemic since most wealthy countries have well-developed healthcare systems. Therefore, their inputs during the pandemic are smaller than those of the less developed countries. To solve the crisis of inequity, there is a need to collaborate with different health organizations and pharmaceutical companies to make sure that the disparities have been cleared. The wealthy organizations should also make initiatives to donate the vaccines they have to the poorer countries to ensure equity and collaboration in dealing with the pandemic.
The solution to vaccine equity
Although there have been many vaccines around the globe, there is a need to have equal access to vaccines, irrespective of the country’s wealth (VOA, 2021). The process of vaccine equity would refer to the distribution of the doses equally in all the countries that need it, irrespective of the individual’s nationality or wealth (Ghebreyesus, 2021, p. 20). There is a need for the health workers and other frontline workers, and those who have the vulnerability are expected to be prioritized.
From the research by the independent panel for the preparedness and response, it was clear that the high-income countries usually order twice as many doses as the needs are for their populations (Ghebreyesus, 2021, p. 82). The report panel indicated a need for the high-income countries to distribute at least 1 billion doses to the middle and low-income countries to ensure that the disparity is dealt with appropriately.
In dealing with vaccine inequity, several factors should be considered. First, there is a need to define that the vaccine alone is insufficient. There is a need to develop a multidimensional approach that requires dealing with different economic sectors during a pandemic. There is also a need to understand that mutation can occur, which continues to lower the efficacy of the existing vaccines (Ghebreyesus, 2021, p. 58). The existing disparities in the vaccines are short-sighted as there is a chance of mutation, which calls for the development of other vaccines (Liao, 2021). As the viruses stay within a population, it develops immunity. The results can be that those who received the first vaccines can be null and lack the development or results needed.
The governments should further stop prioritizing the vaccine patents rather than the culture of sharing and transparency. People need to do everything in the scope of knowledge to make sure that every country has the vaccine as soon as possible (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 25). Citizens can use political pressure to ensure that the investment made in the vaccine development tends to relate to the patent waivers and further ensure that there is no privatization of the public money and companies making profits from the investments made.
In dealing with the inequity, there is also a need for corporations to share their data and technology to save as many lives as possible. By sharing such knowledge, even middle and low-income countries can make an effort to produce their vaccines (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 25). When only one company has the knowledge and capacity to produce the vaccines, the production can halt the mitigation of the pandemic in many countries as the mutation can halt the viability of the vaccine.
Individuals should rally their representatives by contacting the elected officials and further rallying them to effect change. There is a need to vaccinate the people on the front line and those vulnerable around the globe and ensure that this is a necessity (Mukherjee, 2021, p. 29). This will help bring things back to normal. For the vase of low-income countries, the spending in healthcare amounts to an equivalent of $40 for every person (Liao, 2021). As such, the country will need to add on their healthcare spending by
The inequity in the distribution of vaccines is an issue that affects many countries, mainly based on the wealth of these countries. Through the inequity, most middle-income and low-income countries tend to experience slow growth of the economy and further loss of lives due to the delay in access to vaccines. The inequity gap is experienced during the pandemic since most wealthy countries have well-developed healthcare systems. Therefore, their inputs during the pandemic are smaller than those of the less developed countries. To solve the crisis of inequity, there is a need to collaborate with different health organizations and pharmaceutical companies to make sure that the disparities have been cleared. The wealthy organizations should also make initiatives to donate the vaccines they have to the poorer countries to ensure equity and collaboration in dealing with the pandemic. Also, there is a need to consider health workers in developing countries and frontline workers to ensure they are protected when dealing with the pandemic once tested in their countries. The gaps that remain are the lack of unity and oneness in dealing with the issue of vaccine distribution. Most of the distribution is done by pharmaceutical companies. This remains a challenge due to a lack of control of who gets the vaccine and how appropriate the distribution is. There is a need to have a controlling agency on how the vaccines are distributed. There is also a need to develop a collaborative platform of the manufacturers and the receiving countries to educate them on how the virus should be stored and any technicalities in the process. An allocation system should define how the vaccines are distributed and the long-term goals of ensuring that the pandemic has been dealt with from a global perspective. The world health organization and the United Nations should push for motions and laws that ensure that vaccines’ distribution is done with equity.
Ghebreyesus, T. A. (2021). Five steps to solving the vaccine inequity crisis. PLOS Global Public Health, 1(10), e0000032. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgph.0000032
Liao, K. (2021, February 2). What is vaccine equity and why is it so important? Global Citizen. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/what-is-vaccine-equity-covid-19/
Mukherjee, J. S. (2021). The roots of global health inequity. An Introduction to Global Health Delivery, 3-34. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780197607251.003.0001
Myerson, H. (2021, October 4). Vaccine equity: What, how, and when? Concern Worldwide. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.concernusa.org/story/vaccine-equity/
Torres, L. (2021, December 17). Vaccine inequity: A global security risk? Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://gjia.georgetown.edu/2021/12/20/vaccine-inequity-a-global-security-risk/
VOA. (2021, October 30). WHO: Vaccine inequity ‘Demonstrates disregard for the world’s poorest’. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.voanews.com/a/who-vaccine-inequity-demonstrates-a-disregard-for-the-world-s-poorest-/6291917.html
York, J. (2021, December 25). Tackling vaccine inequality: ‘There aren’t enough vaccines in the world’. France 24. Retrieved February 7, 2022, from https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20211225-there-aren-t-enough-vaccines-in-the-world-tackling-vaccine-inequality