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Boston vaccine Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

The Gift of a COVID Vaccine?

The world will not conquer the COVID-19 pandemic until the coronavirus has been vanquished everywhere. And if advanced economies’ vaccine nationalism continues to win out for now over international cooperation, then the vast majority of the world’s population risks having almost no access to lifesaving interventions.

In this Big Picture, Seth Berkley of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Richard Hatchett of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Soumya Swaminathan of the World Health Organization argue that the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX), which aims to provide rapid, fair, and equitable access to vaccines, represents the world’s best chance of ending the pandemic.

But Jayati Ghosh of International Development Economics Associates notes that wealthy countries and individuals appear to be monopolizing early doses of the initial vaccines – precisely the outcome that COVAX was established to prevent. And Tom Bollyky of the Council on Foreign Relations warns that vaccine nationalism threatens not only public health, but also the economic recovery and international cooperation on other global challenges such as climate change.

Anne O. Krueger of Johns Hopkins University therefore calls for a multilateral agreement, best overseen by COVAX and the WHO, to coordinate the allocation of available vaccines in the developing world. And before the next pandemic arrives, argue Mariana Mazzucato, Henry Lishi Li, and Els Torreele of the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose, countries must recognize vaccines as global health commons, and start to reorient the innovation system toward symbiotic public-private partnerships governed in the public interest.

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