Hoarding of vaccines unethical

12 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

The Covid-19 vaccines’ success story gave us hope for the future, but the hope soon turned into despair when we learnt from a BBC report that rich nations are hoarding the vaccines. The countries include the member states of European Union, the United States, Britain, Canada, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Israel and Kuwait. They are home to only 14 percent of the global population and reportedly they had bought 53 percent of the total stock of the vaccines. Because of this phenomenon, 90 percent of population in dozens of poorer countries is likely to be left behind. Ultimately, billions of population of less advantaged countries will probably miss out on the vaccines the next year.

Earlier, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) had advocated for equal access to the vaccine. But, in reality, we observe that vaccine hoarding had started much before its large-scale production that contrasts with their pleadings. The unethical activities of the rich countries undermine the global efforts to ensure that everyone, everywhere can be protected from the virus.

To avert a probable disaster, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a global medical humanitarian organisation, has urged the pharmaceutical companies to scale up output of the vaccine doses and make it available to poorer countries as soon as possible. None should be blocked from getting the life-saving vaccine on the basis of the status of the country where they live in. As part of human rights obligations, rich countries should refrain from the activities that could harm access to vaccine elsewhere; rather they should provide assistance to the countries that require it. At the same time, no company should be allowed to make profits taking advantage of the pandemic, otherwise the term ‘global common goods’ will remain only in papers which will never be materialised into action. It is the WHO that must have to take the responsibility of equal distribution of the vaccines. The global health organistion has stated that it wants to see a rapid expansion of the overall global supply so that more vaccines go around and doses can be allocated according to its official public health criteria, ‘not a country’s ability to pay.’