156 Countries Agree To The WHO’s Covid19 Vaccine Distribution Plan
In a ‘landmark’ moment, 156 countries have agreed to the World Health Organization’s global Covid19 vaccine distribution plan. It includes distributing any developed Covid19 vaccine to the top 3% of most at-risk people in each country, prioritizing frontline healthcare workers, and then slowly expanding the plan to include 20% of vulnerable populations from each country.
Called the Covid19 vaccine allocation plan, or COVAX, the plan is to distribute two billion doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine to both developed and developing countries around the world by 2021, in a rollout that’s a “collaboration, not a contest,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, adding the plan meant vaccines for “some people in all countries and not all people in some countries.”
With the commitment of 156 countries, which represent 64% of the global population, the COVAX effort is “now in business,” with the next step being to make official distribution agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers, the WHO said in a statement. The COVAX facility is currently awaiting more countries to join its effort, in an attempt to counter vaccine nationalism — the hoarding of vaccine doses by countries for their own populations — and ensure equitable distribution.
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It’s this notion of equitable, however, that has incited debate within the medical community. The WHO’s plan, at least on the surface, looks equitable — every participating country gets enough doses to protect 3% of its most vulnerable people. But when we consider the distinctive ways in which the pandemic is wreaking havoc on different countries, contingent upon the country’s population, healthcare infrastructure and government efficacy, we find the countries are not equal starting out, and hence a blanket equal distribution may not be the ideal way to go.
In criticizing this model, bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel has already written, “The idea of distributing vaccines by population appears to be an equitable strategy. But the fact is that normally, we distribute things based on how severe there is suffering in a given place, and, in this case, we argue that the primary measure of suffering ought to be the number of premature deaths that a vaccine would prevent,” while proposing The Fair Priority Model, The Swaddle has previously reported.
Ideally, those who are suffering the most would get the first round of the vaccines. But as seen in the WHO’s COVAX attempt, gauging such a complicated hierarchy on a global scale is no easy feat, and when working with hundreds of political economies, bureaucracy and diplomacy often tend to dictate fairness. It’s imperative we keep in mind that any vaccine allocation plan needs to center social justice and equity on a global scale, and needs to contextualize the idea of ‘equitable’ for it to be fair.