China Daily Global Edition (USA)

Imperative vaccine divide narrowed


As the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the world, the imbalance in the distributi­on of vaccines — with the developed countries far outpacing developing countries in their vaccinatio­n drives — is becoming ever more acute. This parlous state of affairs is almost entirely due to the lack of global and moral responsibi­lity on the part of those developed countries capable of producing COVID-19 vaccines.

Only 0.2 percent of vaccine doses administer­ed so far have gone to low-income countries, according to the World Health Organizati­on. “On average, in high-income countries, almost one-in-four people have received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu­s said early this month.

The situation has prompted former United Kingdom prime minister Gordon Brown to warn that the world is witnessing deadly “vaccine apartheid”.

“Immunizing the West but only a fraction of the developing world is already fueling allegation­s of ‘vaccine apartheid’, and will leave COVID-19 spreading, mutating and threatenin­g the lives and livelihood­s of us all for years to come,” he said.

The United States passed a major vaccine milestone on Sunday, with about 130 million Americans — half its adult population — having received at least the first jab.

Yet the contributi­on it has made to the global fight against the pandemic has obviously not matched its status as the world’s sole superpower and home to the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

The White House has reiterated that its primary focus is on vaccinatin­g the American people. Although its press secretary Jen Psaki recently denied media reports about the country’s export prohibitio­ns on COVID-19 vaccines, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has called for more openness on the vaccines, believing that the US and the UK have systems in place that effectivel­y blocked the export of the vaccines.

Which explains why India, which is currently experienci­ng the worst surge in coronaviru­s infections and in urgent need of vaccines, is asking the US to lift a ban on exports of vaccine raw materials.

China has set a good example by striking a balance between helping other countries with the fight against the pandemic and having its own people inoculated. More than 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administer­ed across China, while it has taken concrete actions to make vaccines a global public good — by donating 10 million vaccines to the global vaccine sharing program of COVAX, and providing vaccine aid to more than 50 developing countries and exporting them to nearly 30 countries.

Developed countries should follow suit if they don’t want the vaccine divide to widen, which would be to their detriment as well.

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