ghosh28_Pavlo ConcharSOPA ImagesLightRocket via Getty Images_covid19 vaccine Pavlo Conchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Vaccine Apartheid

Because a pandemic can be overcome only when it is overcome everywhere, embracing an every-country-for-itself approach would seem irrational. And yet, as the unseemly competition for vaccine doses indicates, that is exactly what many countries have done.

NEW DELHI – The American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech have announced that the COVID-19 vaccine they are jointly developing was more than 90% effective in early clinical trials. The news raised hopes around the world that life may soon return to pre-pandemic normal.

Those hopes may not last long. The announcement also sent governments scrambling to lay claim to vaccine doses, apparently realizing a bleak prediction: wealthy countries and individuals will monopolize early doses of any effective vaccine.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility (COVAX) – led by the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance – was established precisely to prevent this outcome. The COVAX Facility aims to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development, secure doses for all countries, and distribute those doses fairly, beginning with the highest-risk groups. In other words, the facility was created partly to prevent hoarding by rich-country governments.

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