Since the advent of the COVID-19 virus, it has become a worldwide pandemic that has brought even the developed and underdeveloped countries together as they source for a cure, if not a cure, a vaccine that can reduce the spread of this virus, which makes us speak about vaccine equity.
So far, several vaccines have been produced to help curb the coronavirus and more are been produced. But vaccine equity comes in when we speak about the rate at which the vaccines are distributed across countries. How can we ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are distributed fairly to all populations, and that people of all regions, means, and backgrounds are able to access them? Throughout 2021, an income gap has widened with regards to vaccine equity. While vaccines have been distributed for free in countries like the United States, each dose still has a price; between $2 and $40 according to UNICEF and the Gavi Vaccine Alliance.
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Distributing both doses of the vaccine incurs an additional estimated $3.70. This may not seem like much for a country like the US: Data from the UN, World Health Organization, and UNICEF show that high-income countries only have to increase their healthcare spending by 0.8% to cover the cost of vaccinating 70% of their populations. This isn’t the case in low-income countries, where the average annual spending on healthcare is $41 per person. As such, most countries would need to increase their healthcare spending by nearly 57% in order to vaccinate 70% of their populations. The current director-general of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is KOKO TV’s woman of the year 2021 has taken it upon herself to tackle vaccine equity, ensuring that the vaccines have been produced gets to every country even the underdeveloped ones as soon as possible. She once stated, “A strong W.T.O. is vital if we are to recover fully and rapidly from the devastation wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” Our organization faces a great many challenges but working together we can collectively make the W.T.O. stronger, more agile, and better adapted to the realities of today.”
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Amongst the people that have been ensuring these vaccines get to the right channel, Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala has been at the forefront to stop the unequal distribution of Covid vaccines worldwide which overall dampens the effect on the country’s economic recovery. Richer nations have hoarded the highest number of limited Covid shots, while many low-income nations have struggled to get their hands on the much-needed vaccines. For instance, just 7% of Africa’s population have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. The European Union and the U.S., meanwhile, have fully vaccinated around 67% and 58% of their populations respectively. Ngozi-Okonjo Iweala as the Chair of Gavi has been leading the charge for the equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccine in Africa. “What we’re trying to say is that the inequity in access to vaccines is not acceptable. The fact that on the African continent, less than four percent of us have been vaccinated, whereas in the rich countries, you know, close to 50 percent have been vaccinated, is not something that really is good for the world,” she said.
Why? Because we have all these variants that are circulating. And if you don’t vaccinate people, they will just migrate from the unvaccinated to the vaccinated. So, what we’re saying is, in order to solve this problem, we have to produce more vaccines. And then we have to distribute them equitably, to parts of the world that don’t have. She has revealed that the WTO is working directly with the manufacturers, helping to monitor their supply chains. So vaccine equity is super important and imperative in the world at large and more hands need to be on deck for the even distribution of these vaccines.
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