By Rhodri Morgan
“The COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t end with a vaccine. It ends when everyone can get one.”
THAT was the message from a report published on 19 February by global anti-poverty organization One campaign.
Earlier, leaders of the G7 group had met virtually to confirm further financial backing to vaccine roll-outs in the developing world, though US President Joe Biden pushed back on sharing its stockpiled doses until its domestic vaccination programme was complete.
According to the campaign’s research, the US will have close to 453 million spare doses once its entire population has been inoculated – a target Joe Biden hopes to have half-way accomplished by the end of April.
Prior to the meeting, Amnesty International decried the then rumoured suggestion that the world’s richest democracies would stockpile treatments instead of distributing them where they are needed. The NPO’s International Research and Advocacy Director Netsanet Belay described it as “an abject moral failure” and an act of “shooting themselves in the foot”.
As of February 17, 2021, two-thirds of the world’s countries had not received a single vaccine dose.
After a brief reprieve, the US is once again fighting a war at home as daily infections and deaths in the country have, if only temporarily, begun climbing once more, to almost 60,000 new daily cases this week. The news comes amid fears of potential problems with emerging variants from Brazil, South Africa and the UK.
On Tuesday, the US head of the CDC Dr Rochelle Walensky urged citizens to “stay strong” in their convictions and remain observant of Covid-19 protocols and comply with the vaccination scheme.
Last weekend, regulators approved the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the third to be authorised in the country.
But the US’ inoculation programme remains fragmented and discordant. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), 65 per cent of the 48 million US citizens vaccinated are white, 6 per cent are black and 5 per cent are Asian. black Americans are 1.9 times more likely to die from COVID-19 – in fact, Among Black Americans, 71 per cent know someone who has been hospitalized or died because of Covid-19.
Initial UK data indicates comparable problems. Black African communities experience the highest levels of vaccine hesitancy, ahead of Pakistani and Bangledeshi groups, and then followed by white British communities.
Speaking on March 1, 2021 the UK’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab urged those nations without vaccine supplies to wait for the “gold standard” UN approved innoculations over those offered by China and Russia.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed to Redaction Politics that it aims to send more than a billion doses to up to 92 developing countries by June.
Earlier in the day, The Ivory Coast became the second country, after Ghana, to receive vaccines through the COVAX scheme.
According to Reuters, the programme aims to deliver close to 2 billion doses to 90 low and middle-income countries by the end of 2021.
Mr Raab’s words may ring false among many battling Coronavirus pandemic in under-developed countries, and those responsible for their well-being.
Hours after the Foreign Secretary’s comments, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus all but joined Amnesty International in decrying the G7’s vaccine operations, emphasising the importance of ‘vaccine equity’.
That seems a long way off. Whilst many countries will receive shipments of COVAX shots for free, they are responsible for the cost of distribution and community outreach – a process that could prove lengthy, costly and complicated in countries with poor internal infrastructure.
And beneath the surface, one of the G7’s own is experiencing these problems first-hand.
Germany, a nation that has birthed some of the most successful companies in the world from Volkswagen to Allianz, is stuck in a logistical quagmire entirely of its own making.
The country’s decentralized federal government and independently governed 16-state structure could, in theory, be conducive to outbreak management.
However, due to an antiquated record-keeping system throughout the entire country’s healthcare sector, data farming has been slow. So, therefore, are the results of vaccine roll-outs in the country.
Former Director for Germany’s Institute for Demographic Research and Social Policy, Dr Klaus Hurrelman believes it to be a reflection of a wider national fear of governmental control in a nation where the majority of the population fear their information is not adequately protected online.
According to Hurrelman, registered citizens receive communications about their vaccinations via post, creating a significant delaying effect.
Furthermore, due to German newspaper reports in January, there is lingering hesitation surrounding the efficacy AstraZeneca vaccine, resulting in refusals that are slowing the country’s already tectonic administrative process.
On Germany’s donations to COVAX, Hurrelman remains optimistic the plan set out by G7 leaders in February will rapidly gain momentum once the country’s own distribution issues are resolved.
“Four weeks from now, we will have a completely different debate,” he said.
“The forces in Germany who are open for international solidarity and international distribution of vaccines are very strong, especially under Chancellor Merkel.”
Larry Brilliant, the American physician and pandemic expert who helped eradicate smallpox 45 years ago once said, “Outbreaks are inevitable, but pandemics are optional”.
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