Saturday, December 5

Vaccine for all | Opinion

Moderna's vaccine vials, at a company laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.
Moderna’s vaccine vials, at a company laboratory in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

The latest developments in ongoing research raise strong hopes that we are on the final stretch of a safe and effective vaccine against SARS Cov2. Particularly positive is the news that the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine has demonstrated efficacy in the elderly, the most vulnerable population, something that the other two more advanced, Pfizer and Moderna, have yet to demonstrate. This vaccine also has the advantage that it does not need very low temperatures for its conservation and it has a more affordable price. In any case, among the dozen vaccines in the final phase of the clinical trial, it is presumable that there will be one or more capable of stopping the virus.

Obtaining a vaccine, however, is a necessary but not sufficient requirement. To stop the pandemic, it is also necessary to have large-scale production capacity and logistics that allow its distribution, as well as financing mechanisms that ensure that it will reach the entire planet and not only the countries that can pay for it. The wealthiest, including the EU, have already secured stocks of different vaccines before even knowing whether they will be effective. But if this pandemic has shown anything, it is that, in a globalized and interconnected world, the fate of some depends on everyone being able to immunize themselves.

The EU initiative, which for the first time has made a joint reserve of some 1.8 billion doses and prepares a fair distribution, is a valuable precedent for the future of the Union. Europe also has a very important instrument for rapid distribution in public health systems. Cooperating rather than competing for available vaccines is not only an ethically preferable approach, but also a more effective one.

The fight for the vaccine is becoming one more element in the geostrategic struggle of the main powers to shore up their capacity for global influence. But that competition does not ensure success against the virus. The great challenge at this time is to articulate decision-making and solidarity mechanisms on a planetary scale that allow a fair global distribution at an affordable price. For now, only the COVAX initiative is proposing a strategy so that poor countries are not left behind. This international platform of 187 countries for equitable access to the vaccine intends to acquire, under the umbrella of the WHO, some 2 billion doses throughout 2021, which would allow the immunization of people at greatest risk in the poorest countries . But so far it has only raised about 1.7 billion euros, and will need another 4,200. A crucial moment is approaching, therefore, in which decisions will have to be made on which everyone’s future will depend. It is the opportunity to set a precedent that will serve to address future pandemics and other equally serious planetary crises.

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