Covid-19 vaccine must be open to all

15 November 2020

REPORTS in a national daily on Saturday said a new Covid-19 vaccine which has successfully passed all clinical trials will be released soon. But it is likely to go directly to the rich nations which have preordered doses while poorer nations will have to languish in waiting. Many fear it may quickly unveil an unethical sideline business to buy the vaccine at huge cost by less developed nations from third parties to save its people.       
Experts have therefore rightly warned of hurdles that await for less developed countries while the rich    and wealthy nations will hold control over the initial stocks of the first proven coronavirus vaccine. Its developers companies - Pfizer and BioNTech - plan to roll out the first doses within weeks, once they receive emergency use permissions from drug agencies. They are planning to release 1.3 billion doses in the market from early next year with 90 per cent effectiveness against the pandemic.
Its cost has been estimated at $40 per treatment consisting of two separate shots. As usual richer nations have rushed to order tens of millions of doses but it is less clear what the poorer nations can expect out of the new discovery. The World Health Organization in April this year has formed the COVAX facility to ensure equitable distribution of new vaccines once it will hit the market agreed together by governments, scientists, civil society and the private sector.
But it appears that Pfizer is not currently part of the COVAX facility. So health experts fear it is unlikely that much of the first vaccine batch would reach the poorer nations while wealthy nations have already ordered for 1.1 billion doses. It is believed that only limited doses of the vaccine may reach less developed countries through sideline purchase agreements with countries like the UK and Japan which have preordered the drug and buyers have to pay dearly.     
Researchers have found two scenarios to say if 50 rich nations monopolized the first 2 billion doses global death rate may come down by 33 per cent but if the vaccine is being distributed to all countries, it may prevent global death rate by 61 per cent. We would urge world leaders to stop monopolizing the supply and lucrative business on the lifesaving drug. Free it to all. 

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