In the fight against Covid-19, health authorities around the world have been aiming to inoculate at least 40 per cent of the inhabitants of their countries by the end of this year and 60 per cent by the middle of 2022. According to two recent studies by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), this will require up-front funding of $50 billion and not just pledges made at conferences. The sum is paltry when compared to the daily cost of dealing with the economic and social tolls of the pandemic. The reports add that the funding should prioritise providing facilities for testing, treating and preventing infection with the virus and increase the capacity to produce and distribute the vaccines. It should support healthcare systems to better enable them to perform their work and support poorer countries in their efforts to access and deliver the vaccines.
In addition to such essential funding, action must be taken to facilitate the trade in vaccines and to ease restrictions on the intellectual property rights that keep developing countries with the capacities to meet international standards from manufacturing the vaccines. It has been eight months since India, South Africa and other developing nations submitted a proposal to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for this purpose. However, it continues to encounter European opposition despite the recent US approval to go ahead with the process.
There also needs to be an international drive to induce the developed nations to donate surplus doses to the underdeveloped countries. Some developed nations have secured an estimated ten times their actual need for vaccines. In short, stopping the pandemic is financially, commercially and practically feasible after the scientific victory in developing the necessary vaccines in record time. The only obstacle is the lack of international political will.
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