Get vaccinated! Every leader agrees that without equal access to vaccines, a world without Covid-19 is not possible. So much so that South Korean superstar band BTS advocated for vaccinations at the United Nations last week amid surges of coronavirus in different parts of the world.

If only pretty boy bands had the power to sway world leaders towards vaccine equality.

But outside the gilded stages, the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) global target of 70 per cent of the population vaccinated by mid-2022 is not possible since poor countries do not have sufficient access.

While research suggests that enough vaccines will be produced this year to ensure WHO’s target is met, they are reserved for the wealthy countries who are moving on to booster shots for those who are already vaccinated. Countries manufacturing vaccines are restricting exports of doses so that they can get vaccinated first in a form of ‘vaccine nationalism’.

As a result, just about 3pc of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated with at least one dose, compared to over 60pc in high-income countries.

While patents protect and promote research, the debate of whether vaccine technologies should be transferred raged on. “Bangladesh is ready to produce vaccines at a mass scale if technical know-how is shared with us and patent waiver is granted,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh.

The average cost of a Covid-19 vaccine ranges from $2 to $37, given that there are 24 vaccines that have been approved by at least one national regulatory authority. The estimated distribution cost per person is $3.7. While the amount is pocket change for the developed nations, it adds up to a significant financial burden for countries where the average annual per capita health expenditure amounts to $41.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, September 27th, 2021

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