pre-purchase agreements with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturers ven before the end of final stage human trials or regulatory approval, several wealthier countries like Britain, France, Germany and the US have entered into, a development that has come to be known as “vaccine nationalism”.
More About Vaccine Nationalism
- When a country manages to secure doses of vaccines for its own citizens or residents and prioritises its own domestic markets before they are made available in other countries it is known as ‘vaccine nationalism’. This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.
- The present race to hoard Covid-19 vaccines harks back to a similar situation that happened in 2009 during the H1N1 flu pandemic. Australia, the first country to come up with a vaccine, blocked exports while some of the wealthiest countries entered into pre-purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies.
- There are fears that such advance agreements will make the initial few vaccines unaffordable and inaccessible to everyone apart from the rich countries in a world of roughly 8 billion people.
- This has led to the World Health Organization (WHO) warning that nations that hoard possible Covid-19 vaccines while excluding others would deepen the pandemic.
- To bring about equitable and broad access, WHO, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi have come up with an initiative known as “Covax Facility”. The facility aims to procure at least two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year for deployment and distribution mainly in the low and middle income countries.
- According to London-based analytics firm Airfinity, the US, Britain, European Union and Japan have so far secured about 1.3 billion doses of potential Covid-19 vaccines.
- Interestingly, even though vaccine nationalism runs against global public health principles, there are no provisions in international laws that prevent pre-purchase agreements.
- The major drawback of vaccine nationalism is that it puts countries with fewer resources and bargaining power at a disadvantage.