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Collecting vaccines: Uncertainty in poor countries

According to Oxfam, two-thirds or 61 percent of the world's population will not be vaccinated before 2022 due to the over vaccination or collection of rich countries. Many have referred to such behaviour by rich countries or the agreement on vaccine as vaccine nationalism.
Majhar Mannan
Collecting vaccines: Uncertainty in poor countries

Since the beginning of the coronavirus epidemic, efforts have been made to develop safe vaccines around the world and several vaccines came in just 11 months after the onset of the pandemic. There are currently 6 vaccines under discussion.

The World Health Organization approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine on December 31, 2020. Oxford University vaccine, Pfizer vaccine, Sputnik vaccine, Sinovac vaccine and Indian Biotech vaccine are notable vaccines at present. Vaccines invented by various organizations around the world to prevent Covid-19 infection have already begun to be applied to the human body.

Vaccination is already underway in more than 30 countries. Rich countries are already scrambling for vaccines, but poor countries are still far behind. The work of vaccination in different countries started from last December. Multiple vaccines have been approved in several countries, including the UK, USA and India. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved in most countries. Vaccine invented by Russia has been approved in several countries. According to WHO, scientists are now working on 232 Covid-19 vaccines around the world. Of these, 60 vaccines are available in different forms for testing in the human body. Russian vaccine Sputnik -V has been approved in Russia, Argentina and Belarus and vaccination work in these countries has started since last December.

However, it has been alleged that rich countries have bought vaccines and threatened poor countries. The opposite picture of rich countries is being observed in poor countries and waiting for the coronavirus vaccine in poor countries is not over. No one can guarantee when the people of  poor countries will be vaccinated. The situation is now such that low-income countries will not be able to vaccinate more than one in 10 people of their population.

The total population of rich countries is only 14 percent of the total population of the world. But they bought vaccines 53 percent of the total demand. According to a survey, 725 crore dosage vaccines have been bought in advance by various countries and organizations around the world. India has bought 150 crore dosage vaccines.

According to Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University in USA, the European Union has bought the largest amount of vaccines and that number is 160 crore dosage. However, the World Health Organization has confirmed the collection of 200 crore dosage vaccines. The WHO has launched the COVAX programme to ensure equal distribution of the vaccines. The USA has bought 100 crore dosage vaccines. The population of Canada is about 4 crore but the country has bought 36 crore dosage vaccines. The UK has collected 35 crore and 70 lakh dosage vaccines but its population is only 6 and a half crore. Japan has a population of about 13 crore but the country has bought 29 crore dosage vaccines. Brazil, the Latin American country has 21 crore population but the country has collected 20 crore dosage vaccines. Israel is at the forefront of the world in terms of vaccination and more than 12 percent of people of Israel have been vaccinated. 3 and a half percent of people in Bahrain have been vaccinated.

Vaccination is also being carried out in several other countries, including Denmark, Russia, China, Canada, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia and they all have taken Pfizer vaccines. According to Oxfam, two-thirds or 61 percent of the world's population will not be vaccinated before 2022 due to the over vaccination or collection of rich countries. Many have referred to such behaviour by rich countries or the agreement on vaccine as vaccine nationalism. It is natural that rich countries will be ahead in the competition for vaccination, but what about the poor countries? From the fear of this unequal competition between rich and poor countries, WHO has launched the COVAX facility and underdeveloped countries will come under COVAX facilities. Even before this, the poorest countries were not vaccinated against many epidemics and rich countries collected almost the vaccines that time. Many countries got it later but then the vaccine was no longer needed. In this unequal competition between rich and poor countries, Bangladesh has to survive and bring vaccines. Underdeveloped and developing countries are eagerly waiting for COVAX facility. WHO is trying to secure 2 billion dosage vaccination by 2021. Of this, 1 billion will be allocated to people in 92 low-income countries. These countries are home to more than half of the world's population. Bangladesh has been associated with it. Under the COVAX facility, there are plans to guarantee vaccination for at-risk 20 percent of the population in each country. According to WHO, 156 countries have been included in this COVAX facility. However, there are also concerns about how successful this facility will be. The two largest producer countries of vaccine, the USA and China are not associated with it. So, it will be difficult to provide equality. Procurement and distribution of vaccines can also complicate the low-income countries.

There has been somewhat uncertainty about the quick arrival of Covid-19 vaccine in Bangladesh. It has been heard that the Oxford vaccine will come to Bangladesh in a very short time. In the first week of November, the government of Bangladesh and Beximco signed a tripartite agreement with the Serum Institute, a vaccine manufacturer in India. Beximco will hand over the vaccine from Serum to the Bangladesh government. Following Beximco's application, the Department of Drug Administration has approved the import and emergency use of the Oxford vaccine in Bangladesh. Serum authority says, they will give the vaccine to Bangladesh in time but still there seems to be some uncertainty. Outside of Serum, Bangladesh is supposed to get the vaccine from COVAX at subsidized prices but no one can say for sure when it will come. The government has repeatedly said that Bangladesh is trying to bring vaccine from all possible sources. Now the government needs to communicate with other countries in order to get vaccine quickly. It is learned that the government may agree to the Chinese vaccine test. The government should focus on collecting vaccines from other sources and not just relying on Serum vaccine. The government has allocated 4236 crore taka for Covid-19 vaccine. This money will be spent on vaccine import, storage and transportation work.

Everyone believes that the government of Bangladesh will be able to bring the people under the vaccination programme within the stipulated time.

WHO needs to take swift and effective action now to provide vaccine to poorer countries. While rich countries can collect vaccines as they have enough capacity, the WHO is the guardian of poor countries in this regard. Therefore, vaccines of WHO should be given to the poor countries as early as possible.

The writer is Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola Dhaka Cantonment.
 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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