Pfizer Inc has announced that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective. This marks a major milestone in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, crashed the global economy, initiated labour crisis, rendered people jobless and uprooted the everyday life of millions of people.
Pfizer along with its German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers in the world that have achieved the feat of releasing successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of COVID-19 vaccine. The companies have announced that as per their findings, no serious safety concerns have been observed so from the vaccine. In fact, the companies are looking forward to seeking US authorization this month for emergency use of the vaccine.
It needs to be taken into consideration that even after Pfizer’s Vaccine receives the authorisation, the availability of the number of doses in the initial stages will be limited. In addition to that, it is not clear as yet as to how long will the vaccine be effective in providing protection.
Sadly, the vaccine will eliminate one problem and create another. Which countries get the vaccine and how much? This problem could flare up the already testing relations which have been prevailing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before the vaccine is successful and is given a go-ahead approval to be administered to common people, wealthy countries have purchased inventories of millions of doses in advance. The United States of America has purchased about 800 million doses which is almost 3X their total population. The UK has purchased more than 300 million doses which is more than 5 times their population. A total of 2 billion doses has already been booked, way before even a single vaccine is approved.
But this is a global pandemic killing thousands every day all over the world. If wealthy countries buy up all the doses and there is nothing left for the third world, the pandemic will not end. A new report by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation suggests that the attitude of the wealthy countries will lead to increased mortality all over the world. They cited a detailed study conducted by North Eastern University which has estimated the effect of cooperative versus uncooperative strategies of COVID-19 vaccine allocation. The results of the study highlight that if the vaccine is only distributed to the high-income countries first then it will save 33% of the possible deaths. But if it follows a very simply distribution strategy of doses shared proportional to the population, then 61% of the deaths will be averted which is almost twice as much if hoarding by high-income countries is eliminated.
Even WHO which has been receiving bad rep for the way they handled the pandemic cautions against the hoarding of vaccine by wealthy countries. The Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed this concern during a virtual briefing on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. He said: “We need to prevent vaccine nationalism. Sharing finite supplies strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest.”