A global vaccine pool for poor nations

Published October 5, 2020, 5:46 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Nations around the world have begun to plan for the acquisition of vaccines with which they hope to stop the spread of COVID-19 in their lands. Of 175 proposed vaccines listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), 33 are said to be in their final human trials and two or three in the United States, China, and United Kingdom are in the last Phase 3 stage, each involving hundreds of people over a three-month test period.

Some big nations like the US and China, understandably want billions of doses for their own people. US President Donald Trump has announced his administration has contracted with American vaccine producers.

Concerned that the poorer people of the world may be left behind, the United Nations (UN) has now organized a global pool for the procurement of vaccines for distribution to these poorer nations, including the Philippines.

Last Thursday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on the richer nations to contribute to a global pool to procure the vaccine for distribution around the world. He called for $15 billion in contributions with which to acquire two billion doses, along with 245 million treatments, and 500 million diagnostic tests.

The World Health Organization has already received around $3 billion in contribution from Germany whose Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to give 775 million euros more, while British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab committed 250 million pounds ($320 million); Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven committed $10 million, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed Canadian $440 million (US S332 million).

The UN thought of organizing the global vaccine project after it seemed the richest nations like the US may corner the initial batches of the vaccines for their own people, while the world’s low and middle-income countries were on track to get vaccines for only 14 percent of their people, according to Bill Gates. His foundation has thus signed agreements with 16 biotech firms to expand their production to meet the needs of poorer nations.

We welcome these moves which indicate, first of all, that vaccine development is moving fast. A US vaccine, along with those now in their final tests in the UK, China, and Germany, should get their final government approvals around December or early in 2021. We may have the start of mass vaccinations around the world in the ensuing months of 2021.

When this happens, we should see a steady drop in COVID-19 cases around the world. Then, like all previous viral epidemics in the past, today’s pandemic which has already caused so much pain and suffering among the peoples of the world will pass on into history