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How Rich Countries’ National Interest Will Threaten Fair Distribution of COVID-19 Shots

in Afghan Business

How Rich Countries’ National Interest Will Threaten Fair Distribution of COVID-19 Shots

Recent forecasts have indicated that the US economy shrank by an annual rate of 32.9% between April and June as coronavirus cases spike again all across the US. This is the country’s worst quarter since then second World War. Meanwhile, the UK economy has contracted 2.2%–the nation’s worst economic contraction in 41 years. According to the World Bank’s June 2020 Global Economic Prospects report, the global economy is forecasted to shrink by 5.2% in 2020. A coronavrius vaccine is a critical component of economic recovery all across the world.

Major economies like the US and the UK are in the race for the creation of the coronavirus vaccine. In the UK, the private sector and the government have joined arms to produce the vaccine. In May, the government provided £131mn to their Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovations Centers.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DoD) announced an agreement with the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to demonstrate large-scale manufacturing and delivery of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The U.S. government has already been providing support for multiple vaccine programs, including the three finalists. Each of the three companies have been part of the government’s Operation Warp Speed, an ambitious program that set a goal of having 100 million doses of a vaccine against COVID-19 available by November 2020. The initiative ‘Operation Warp Speed’ has the goal to support the production of 300 million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the US by early 2021. Now, five finalists for funding have been chosen – AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna and Pfizer.

German CureVac started works for developing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate earlier this year and recently secured approval from the German Health Authority Paul-Ehrlich-Institute and Belgian Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products.  CureVac declared that they would only make a vaccine for the whole world and not individual countries.

This raises the challenging question of who owns the vaccine, with many superpowers engaging in “vaccine nationalism.” The World Health Organization (WHO) recently voiced concerns over “vaccine nationalism” and warned that it will hinder efforts to combat the pandemic. “If and when we have an effective COVID-19 vaccine, we must also use it effectively. The first priority must be to vaccinate some people in all countries, rather than all people in some countries. So, using vaccines as a global public good is in the national interest of each and every country. Vaccine nationalism will prolong the pandemic, not shorten it,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during his COVID-19 press briefing on Friday.

Russia was first in the game of  “vaccine nationalism” when they announced to be the first developer of the vaccine, which they proudly named “Sputnik V” as a symbol of their national pride. As a centralized government, Russia has total control over the distribution of its vaccines. Like China, their entrepreneurial class has limited representation in the government, allowing their interests to be side-lined. Creating their own vaccines conveniently supports the authoritarian government rhetoric—that an autarkic, self-sustainable system is the only way they can prosper. China, must like the US, plans to share its vaccine only with selected partners through a bilateral agreements which will help China influence the majority of poor countries in North Asia and Africa. Conversely, the European Commission agreed to purchase 300 million vaccines and distribute them across Europe and to low-income countries. 140 world leaders came together to pledge against leaving this “massive task” to market forces. Much like during national lockdowns, market power is being curbed in favor of increased government power all across the world. Yet, even some companies have humanitarian, no corporate, attitude towards the pandemic. AstraZeneca themselves are working on “parallel supply chains” to deliver the vaccine across the world “at no profits”.

Aside from the side-lining of corporate interests, another significant product from this pandemic will be the increased centralization of the biomedical industry. Increased centralization, however, will create a new front for “vaccine nationalism” in which the national interest might be given more importance than the collective good of the world, something which we can now see being done by authoritarian nations. Unfortunately, many countries are just using vaccines to further their political agenda. How do you think the vaccine should be distributed?

Follow @economics.daily for more economics news.

Tags assigned to this article:
Coronavirus vaccine

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