Vaccine nationalism

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DELIVERING the opening statement at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Forum on Financing for Development, Prime Minister Imran Khan very forcefully and rightly so slammed vaccine nationalism and export restrictions imposed by some countries and urged the international community to ensure that the Covid-19 vaccine is available to everyone, everywhere and as soon as possible.

Indeed the call made by the PM is the need of the hour. Currently at least one hundred and fifty nine countries have begun their Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

Some, like the United Kingdom, are well on their way to vaccinating a majority of the at-risk population. Over six million people in the UK have received both doses of an authorized vaccine.

The early procurement of vaccines by the United States and purchases by other high-resource countries has fed a widespread assumption that each country will be solely responsible for its own population.

Unfortunately, vaccines remain scarce in many low resource nations and vaccination rates low to nonexistent.

Such vaccine nationalism perpetuates the long history of powerful countries securing vaccines and therapeutics at the expense of less-wealthy countries; it is short-sighted, ineffective and deadly.

The current pandemic is by no means the first time that vaccination and treatment efforts have been one-sided.

During the height of the HIV pandemic, low-resource countries struggled to access life-saving medications due to their high costs.

Agencies, such as the United Nations, also decided it was more important to focus on prevention in these nations rather than treatment.

In the present circumstances, the global vaccine inequity will only worsen the situation and make it very difficult to end the current pandemic.

In fact one should emulate China which has been forthcoming to helping countries like Pakistan to vaccinate the people against Covid-19.

Such an approach is required from other major countries as well in order to be successful in the fight against the virus and achieve herd immunity. Then the Covid-19 has badly affected the economies of developing countries.

It is imperative that these countries be given debt relief and liquidity to cope with the negative impact of the pandemic.

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