Sunday, January 17, 2021 | ePaper

Vaccines Poor Countries Still Far Behind

Majhar Mannan

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Since the beginning of the corona virus epidemic, efforts have been made to develop safe vaccines around the world and several vaccines came in just 11 months in its continuation. There are currently 6 vaccines under discussion. The World Health Organization approved the use of the pfizer vaccine on December 31, 2020.  Oxford University vaccine, pfizer vaccine, Sputnik vaccine, Synovac vaccine and Indian Biotech vaccine are notable vaccines at present. Vaccines invented by various organizations around the world to prevent corona infection have already begun to be applied to the human body.
Vaccination is already underway in more than 30 countries. Rich countries are already scrambling for vaccines, but poor countries are still far behind. The work of vaccination in different countries started from last December. Multiple vaccines have been approved in several countries, including the UK, USA and India. The pfizer vaccine has been approved in most countries. Vaccine invented by Russia has been approved in several countries. According to WHO, scientists are now working on 232 corona vaccines around the world. Of these, 60 vaccines are available in different forms for testing in the human body. Russian vaccine Sputnik -V has been approved in Russia, Argentina and Belarus and vaccination work in these countries has started since lat December.
However, it has been alleged that rich countries have bought vaccines. The total population of rich countries is only 14 percent of total population of the world. But they bought vaccines 53 percent of the total demand. According to a survey, 725 crore dosage vaccines have been bought in advance by various countries and organizations around the world. India has bought 150 crore dosage vaccines. The situation is now such that low-income countries will not be able to vaccinate more than one in 10 people of their population.
According to Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University in USA,  The European Union has bought the largest amount of vaccines and that number is 160 crore dosage. However, The World Health Organization has confirmed the collection of 200 crore dosage vaccines. The WHO has launched the COVAX program to ensure equal distribution of the vaccines. USA has bought 100 crore dosage vaccines. The population of Canada is about 4 crore but the country has bought 36 crore dosage vaccines. The UK has collected 35 crore and 70 lakh dosage vaccines but its population is only 6 and a half crore. Japan has a population of about 13 crore but the country has bought 29 crore dosage vaccines. Brazil, the Latin American country has 21 crore population but the country has collected 20 crore dosage vaccines. Israel is at the forefront of the world in terms of vaccination and more than 12 percent of people of Israel have been vaccinated. Three and a half percent of people in Bahrain have been vaccinated.
Vaccination is also being carried out in several other countries, including Denmark, Russia, China, Canada, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia and they all have taken pfizer vaccines. According to Oxfam, two-thirds or 61 percent of the world's population will not be vaccinated before 2022 due to the over vaccination or collection of rich countries. Many have referred to such behaviour by rich countries or the agreement on vaccine as vaccine nationalism. It is natural that rich countries will be ahead in the competition for vaccination, but what about the poor countries?
There has been somewhat uncertainty about the quick arrival of corona vaccine in Bangladesh. It has been heard that the Oxford vaccine will come to Bangladesh in a very short time. In the first week of November, the government of Bangladesh and Beximco signed a tripartite agreement with the Serum institute, a vaccine manufacturer in India. Beximco will hand over the vaccine from Serum institute to the Bangladesh government. Following Beximco's application, the Department of Drug Administration has approved the import and emergency use of the Oxford vaccine in Bangladesh. Serum authority says, they will give the vaccine to Bangladesh in time but still there seems to be some uncertainty.  Outside of Serum, Bangladesh is supposed to get the vaccine from COVAX at subsidized prices but no one can say for sure when it will come. Bangladesh is trying to bring vaccine from all possible sources. Now the government needs to communicate with other countries in order to get vaccine quickly. It was learned that the government may agree to the Chinese vaccine test. Bangladesh should focus on collecting vaccines from other sources and not just relying on Serum vaccine. Everyone believes that the government of Bangladesh will be able to bring the people under the vaccination program within the stipulated time.
WHO needs to take swift and effective action now to provide vaccine to poor countries. While rich countries can collect vaccines as they have enough capacity, the WHO is the guardian of poor countries in this regard. Therefore, vaccines of WHO should be given to the poor countries as early as possible.

(Majhar Mannan is Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College Kurmitola)

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