What is causing vaccine inequity in the world?

File: Vaccine production in India banks on raw materials from countries like the US (AP)
File: Vaccine production in India banks on raw materials from countries like the US (AP)

Summary

As the pandemic rages through the world, rich nations are seen acting in ways that are putting developing nations at a disadvantage when it comes to vaccinating their populations. The problems relate to vaccine production and access, including affordability. Mint explains

  1. How does US law impact production?

US President Joe Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses within his first 100 days in office and asked officials to use the Defence Production Act (DPA) to direct private firms to prioritize orders from the federal government. Thus vaccine production in India, which banks on raw materials from countries like the US, takes a hit. Earlier this month, Serum Institute of India’s (SII’s) Adar Poonawalla appealed to Biden “to lift the embargo of raw material exports" so that his firm could boost production. SII manufactures Oxford-AstraZeneca developed Covishield and Covovax developed by a US firm Novavax.

US President Joe Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses within his first 100 days in office
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US President Joe Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses within his first 100 days in office

2. How is India dealing with the issue?

India has taken up the matter with the US on an urgent basis bilaterally. Foreign minister S. Jaishankar said earlier this week that he was in touch with the US to keep supply chains open as US firms say they need government permission to export because of the DPA. This is seen as a delicate matter as the US has a large number of covid-19 infections and Biden had promised to remedy the suffering posed by the pandemic during his election campaign. In India, too, the cases have surged in recent weeks and the government is trying to ramp up vaccinations and also keep its international commitments at a later date.

3. Are countries overbooking covid-19 vaccines?

Organizations, including Oxfam and Amnesty International, have accused Western countries of buying up more vaccines than needed to inoculate their people. According to news reports, the UK, Canada, and the European Union are among those who have overbooked vaccines, more than required by their populations.

4. How can vaccines be made affordable?

Rich nations such as the UK, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland are against a waiver of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provisions for vaccines. A waiver would mean a vaccine developed by firms such as Pfizer or Moderna will be available for manufacturing by countries with capacity without paying licence fees. This would mean doses are accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income nations. But, the supporters of TRIPS say that IPR and patent protection boosts innovation.

5. How can vaccines be made affordable?

Rich nations such as the UK, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland are against a waiver of Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) provisions for vaccines. A waiver would mean a vaccine developed by firms such as Pfizer or Moderna will be available for manufacturing by countries with capacity without paying licence fees. This would mean doses are accessible and affordable to low- and middle-income nations. But, the supporters of TRIPS say that IPR and patent protection boosts innovation.

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