BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) -The United Kingdom began a nationwide inoculation program on Dec 8, using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
By Dec 23, 1 million Americans had received jabs of the same vaccine. Meanwhile, a vaccine developed by Moderna and another by AstraZeneca are reportedly almost ready for use. And in China, millions have reportedly been vaccinated with domestically developed vaccines under an emergency use program.
However, the light of hope that there will be an end to the long, dark tunnel of the pandemic is not being glimpsed by all, as not every country has equal access to these lifesaving doses.
Of the 12 billion vaccine doses that are expected to be produced globally next year, the wealthy countries have reportedly booked 9 billion doses.
If all contracted vaccine purchases are delivered, the European Union will be able to vaccinate all its citizens twice, the United Kingdom and the United States four times, and Canada six.
But only 20 per cent of people in low-income countries are expected to have been vaccinated by the end of 2021. According to Duke University data, of the 7.7 billion doses of the vaccines purchased by Dec 18, low-income countries will get none.
The disparity shows an alarming loophole in the world’s pandemic defence strategy. As experts have repeatedly said, we are all in this together.
That the world is divided into the haves and have-nots when it comes to vaccines puts people in all countries at risk, since no country will be safe until all are.
And supporting equitable vaccine access is not only an humanitarian and moral obligation of capable countries, it will reward them economically.
A recent report by the Eurasia Group found that global equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines may generate at least US$466 billion (S$617 billion)by 2050 in 10 major economies.
That’s more than 12 times the estimated cost of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, an essential project to support equitable vaccine distribution led by the World Health Organisation in partnership with leading international health organisations.
With governments preoccupied with getting the resources to meet their own people’s needs, multilateral international health mechanisms such as the WHO must ensure that the less-developed countries get the vaccines in a timely manner.
China, on its part, has repeatedly said that once they are being mass-produced its vaccines will be made global public goods and supplied to the world at reasonable prices, and it will also provide vaccines for developing countries through other means, including donations and assistance.
To ensure that the vaccines really do herald light at the end of the tunnel, the priority must be to ensure that they go where they are most needed, wherever that may be worldwide.
China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.