Leave no one behind when vaccine is found
COVID-19 has caused immeasurable damage to health and economy globally, but it should not be allowed to shake away the confidence of humanity, which has successfully conquered several such adversities before. Solidarity is the key word and there is nothing that cannot be achieved when everyone joins hands and deals with the mysterious enemy together. To a world battered by negative news day in and day out, the positive signals are that scientists are working at breakneck speed to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, which has killed more than 300,000 people worldwide and pummelled economies. From the US to Europe to Asia, national and local governments are already easing lockdown orders to get people back to work — while fretting over a possible second wave of infections. Increased freedom of movement means an increased risk of contracting the virus, and so national labs and private firms are working hard to find the right formula for a vaccine. The European Union’s medicines agency has already offered some hope saying one could be ready in a year, based on data from clinical trials already underway. The US government even plans to stockpile hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines that are under development to combat the novel coronavirus with the goal of having one or more vaccines ready to deploy by the end of the year. The experimental vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is one of the front runners in the global race to provide protection against the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, which has teamed up with the drugmaker AstraZeneca to develop that vaccine, has indicated that it will be priced to allow as wide as possible access to it, if it proves successful, and will be made at huge scale to keep costs down and supply up.
While all these developments add a little cheer to an otherwise tense situation all around, it should be kept in mind that any effective vaccine should be made available to every human being. More than 140 world leaders, experts and elders who have made an unprecedented call for guarantees that COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics, tests and treatments will be provided free of charge to everyone, everywhere are absolutely right in demanding so. The letter, which marks the most ambitious position yet set out by world leaders on a COVID-19 vaccine, demands that all vaccines, treatments and tests be patent-free, mass produced, distributed fairly and made available to all people, in all countries, free of charge. The leaders recognise that progress is being made and that many countries and international organisations are cooperating multilaterally on research and development, funding and access, including the welcome $8 billion pledged on May 4 at the European Union’s international pledging marathon. However, as many countries and companies are proceeding with unprecedented speed to develop an effective vaccine, concrete commitments are essential to ensure that it is made affordable and available to all in the quickest possible time. Billions of people today await a vaccine that is our best hope of ending this pandemic, as Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, points out. The COVID-19 vaccine must be patent-free, rapidly made and distributed, and free for all. All the science must be shared between governments. Nobody should be pushed to the back of the vaccine queue because of where they live or what they earn.