No one is safe until everyone is safe
Shining Editorial || shiningbd
To solve a global crisis needs collective exertions but the rise of vaccine nationalism is underscoring the potentiality of making vaccines as a global commons and thus intensifying the shocks of covid-19 in the social, political and economic sectors.
Every country of the world has the right to equitable access to vaccination and immunization against the common invisible threat. The world leaders are active in revitalizing human rights in every corner of the world, simultaneously; equity in vaccination should be on the top agenda in discussing the human security discourse.
But unfortunately, the ‘global village’ is now turning towards typical national units. At least seven different vaccines across three platforms have been rolled out in countries along with 200 additional vaccine candidates are in development.
But, states are taking isolating policies in the process of vaccination. For instance, India is now showing its ‘vaccine nationalism’ through ‘deep production act’ putting ban on exporting vaccines. At the same venture, the USA is imposing a ban on export of raw materials for vaccine production under the ‘Defense Production Act’.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has taken an initiative called COVAX along with GAVI, the vaccine alliance and Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations to produce at least 2 billion doses vaccine for its 172 member states by the end of this year.
Under the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program, the U.S. and the G7 nations committed to vaccinate at least 20 percent of the populations of participating underdeveloped and developing countries by 2021.
So far, only 38 million doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Serum Institute of India have been distributed under the scheme of COVAX. For poorer nations, it is impossible to procure any vaccine from the international market.
This means that a large portion of the world's population will not be vaccinated in the foreseeable future. Experts estimate that 80 percent of people in lower income countries will not receive a vaccine in 2021. WHO reported that the global vaccination rate is 6.7 million doses per day which would take 4.6 years to achieve global herd immunity.
To date, only 2.8 percent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated. Only 4 percent of those vaccinations have been in developing countries. According to Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Center, low-income countries have managed to purchase only 9 percent of total vaccines produced. In a sheer contrast, developed countries have bought up enough doses to vaccinate their populations three times over by the end of 2021.
The world leaders should not forget that public health should be kept above all national interests.
In Bangladesh, due to the second wave of Covid-19, the number of infections and deaths is increasing alarmingly every day. Bangladesh is among the front rows in receiving vaccines for its population which can be marked as a success of its vaccine diplomacy. Bangladesh signed an agreement with India's Serum Institute through Beximco Pharmaceuticals.
But on the pretext of domestic demand, the Indian government banned the export of vaccines. Only 1% of its population is fully vaccinated so far.
According to the Department of Health, there are about 49 lakh vaccines in stock in the country but approximately 43 lakh 46 thousand 471 people yet to receive the second doses.
If the first and second doses of the vaccination continue at the current rate, the stock will run out within the next 15 days to a month. In this situation, the Bangladesh government is trying hard to bring in vaccines from other sources so that the vaccination program is not disrupted in the country.
The Bangladeshi government has been remarkably successful in ensuring close ties with vaccine producing stakeholders such as China, India and Russia. China declared to provide 5 lakh doses vaccines from Sinovac Biotech as a gift along with becoming vaccine supplying partner.
Bangladesh has also approved the import of Sinopharm vaccine from China. Russia has offered to produce Sputnik V in co-production with local pharmaceutical companies which is a really praiseworthy initiative. To continue the availability of the vaccine and to vaccinate its entire population, the proposal of Russia is a great opportunity for Bangladesh.
Besides, Bangladesh will receive 10.9 million vaccines under COVAX by June. However, as a part of the international community, Bangladesh is actively propagating in multilateral forums for the equal and affordable access of vaccines for all the countries. In the D-8 Summit as well as during the visit of the US Special envoy for Climate John Kerry urged for the vaccine availability for all.
However, up to now we have seen the politicization of vaccines through using it as a ‘tool’ for domestic and international policies. Without collective and collaborative efforts, a single state will hardly be able to face the adversities of the Covid-19.
Above all, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in the 75th UN Assembly rightly said that vaccines should be treated as “global public good” to ensure the equitable access for all. We should keep in mind that “no one is safe until everyone is safe”.