An Unjustified COVID-19 Complacency -- & a 16-Billion Dollar Gap in Vaccine and Treatment Regime

  • Opinion by Gordon Brown (london)
  • Inter Press Service

We must alert the conscience of the world to act given the high possibility of more lethal variants coming back to haunt even those who are fully vaccinated. We may feel safe, but we are not safe, as long as the disease can spread and mutate.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) ?the WHO’s initiative to coordinate the fastest health response out of the crisis? currently has a $16 billion funding hole, with only “weeks” left to resolve this.

Unless the money comes in urgently, we will not be able to fund the next stages of vaccines, treatments, testing, and even the medical oxygen and PPE needed by nurses and doctors (around the world).

Governments should take extraordinary measures, as it did for the 2008 global financial crash, and share the burden of funding according to their ability to pay, as they do now in funding UN peacekeeping or the World Bank or the IMF, rather than “unfair” and failing voluntary contributions. How the world had eradicated smallpox was a successful example.

It was short-sighted to take such a narrow view of national self-interest for rich countries to vaccinate only their own citizens in prolonging a mutating crisis that could cost them $5 trillion in loss of trade, economic activities, companies going bust, and jobs lost.

This will bite back even those countries that have a big vaccination program. Vaccination rates in rich countries currently stand at 75 percent against 11 percent across Africa.

We need a vaccine patent waiver and technology transfer. What’s happened in Africa is as bad as what happened under colonial rule. Africa has been deprived of vaccines but also of the ability to manufacture its own vaccines because it does not have the patents to do so.

The EU is unconscionable for taking vaccines made in South Africa late last year, at a time that Europe was 60 percent vaccinated while Africa stood at less than 3 percent. The World Trade Organization should have agreed a long time ago for the patent waiver.

The most urgent and immediate priority in tackling COVID-19 and getting more vaccines to people, especially in developing countries, was money. People are dying now ?right now? because we can’t get enough vaccines and equipment and therapeutics to them quickly enough. We have to solve the problem now, and that requires proper funding now.

Even now more than 70 percent of vaccines are still coming to the G20 countries which means that the other 175 countries are simply losing out. We’re in this terrible position where 60 million vaccines have already had to be destroyed in the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union. And 250 million more may have to be destroyed by Easter as being past their used-by date.

The COVID-19 response was lacking funding, coordination and leadership. An enlightened view of self-interest would tell rich country leaders that all people must have the chance to be vaccinated to eradicate a disease that is likely to mutate and come back to hit you, he said.

Social grassroots movements should come together around this big picture of saving lives. We have to expose the anti-vaxx lies. We have to realize that social media matters. Most of all we have to give people a bridgehead of hope and a sense of that we can change things.

If you can work for change and hope that the world can be a better place, you can persuade people to join you. I would stress organization and education and agitation, but I would stress the importance of persuading people that the world can be a better place through engendering hope in a better future.

Gordon Brown, a former Prime Minister of UK, was appointed in 2021 as World Health Organization (WHO) Ambassador for Global Health Financing and is a member of the Club de Madrid forum of democratic former Presidents and Prime Ministers. Last week he was guesting on Oxfam’s EQUALS podcast.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service