Vaccines are tools that train someone’s body to deal with a disease before it can harm them. If enough people are protected against a virus then it can no longer spread. Since research began in early 2020, three COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for full use. They are recognised by regulatory authorities and six more have been approved for emergency use. This is an exciting step closer to ending the pandemic but how will we make sure enough people get vaccinated?
Vaccine nationalism is where the world’s richest nations prioritise their own vaccine efforts by buying up the supply of vaccines. This is highly damaging as it drives up the prices and takes away from the supply of vaccines to developing nations. Countries such as South Africa even contributed human trials for their development. They have been pushed to the back of the queue for vaccine distribution.
The phenomenon is dangerous because while the virus is spreading it has the chance of developing new strains. This has occurred already in the United Kingdom and South Africa. These mutations may make the virus more deadly. More contagious, and perhaps change the parts of the virus that vaccines work against. This could make vaccines less effective in treating the virus, pushing back the end of the pandemic.
The COVAX initiative
Despite this there is a bright future for the global vaccine effort. COVAX is an initiative started by the World Health Organisation (WHO). It aims to provide innovative and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines to all corners of the world regardless of their wealth. It is truly global with 80 economies expressing interest in contributing and 92 economies set to receive aid.
The initiative has agreements to access nearly two billion doses and will make them available to all but 6 African countries (these countries are self-financing the vaccine). The first wave of vaccines will come from the providers AstraZeneca and Pfizer/Biontech but COVAX has invested in 9 other vaccines which have not yet completed development/testing. The first wave is predicted to be available before the end of March this year depending on regulatory approval in the countries that they are going to. The doses will initially go frontline workers in social care, people over the age of 65 and people under 65 with underlying health conditions. After this the goal will widen to cover 20% of the population by the end of 2021.
The COVID-19 virus has been an overwhelming challenge for the whole world, but it has also brought out the best in humanity. COVAX has been an inspiring example of this. From the development to the distribution of the vaccine, never has the world seen such a joint effort. COVID has shown what we are capable of when we work together!