UN Summit hope for COVID-19 vaccine made available, affordable to all countries
Washington, Sep 24: If the United Nations was created from the ashes of World War II, what will be born from the global crisis of COVID-19? Many world leaders at this week's virtual UN Summit hope it will be a vaccine made available and affordable to all countries, rich and poor.
But with the US, China and Russia opting out of a collaborative effort to develop and distribute a vaccine, and some rich nations striking deals with pharmaceutical companies to secure millions of potential doses, the UN pleas are plentiful but likely in vain.
"Are people to be left to die?" Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández, a COVID-19 survivor, said of the uncertain way forward. More than 150 countries have joined COVAX, in which richer countries agree to buy into potential vaccines and help finance access for poorer ones. But the absence of Washington, Beijing and Moscow means the response to a health crisis unlike any other in the UN's 75 years is short of truly being global.
Instead, the three powers have made vague pledges of sharing any vaccine they develop, likely after helping their own citizens first. This week's UN gathering could serve as a wake-up call, said Gayle Smith, president of the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit fighting preventable disease that's developing scorecards to measure how the world's most powerful nations are contributing to vaccine equity.
"It's not enough for only some G20 countries to realize that an equitable vaccine is the key to ending this virus and reopening the global economy," she said. With weeks remaining before a deadline for countries to join COVAX, which is co-led by the UN's World Health Organisation, many heads of state are using the UN meeting as a high-profile chance to wheedle, persuade and even shame.
The vaccine quest must not be a "purely mercantile act," Iraq said. Nor "an issue of competition," Turkey said. "We must take the politics out of the vaccine," Kazakhstan said. "We need true globalization of compassion," Slovakia said.