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Pakistan Deaths
Pakistan Cases

EDITORIAL: In his keynote address on Monday to a virtual session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, among other proposals for tackling a series of interlinked and unprecedented public health and economic crises, Prime Minister Imran Khan called for a viable framework for equitable and affordable supply of Covid-19 vaccine to developing countries. The prime minister pointed out that Covid-19 vaccines are now being administered in developed countries, but it seems that it would take much longer for the vaccine to fully cover the global South.

Understandably, wealthier nations having funded development and manufacture of vaccines are first to fulfill the needs of their own people. That though won’t eliminate the chances of resurgence of the pandemic unless the rest of the world also gets access to its vaccine. Coronavirus-19, of course, does not discriminate between rich and poor nations. In fact, a new highly infectious variant has hit the UK and several other countries in the Americas and Africa. A fairer rollout of vaccines is imperative for health and economic security of all. Towards that, last April the World Health Organization (WHO) launched COVAX Facility, together with the governments, manufactures, philanthropists, and scientists to ensure vaccines reach people in need wherever they live. It is a very valuable imitative, but far short of the required volume. Starting in the first quarter of this year COVAX is to make available about 1.3 billion doses of different vaccines, covering at least 20 percent of 92 participating countries’ – including Pakistan’s—population. A vast number of people in low income countries would still remain vulnerable. If the aim is to achieve herd immunity a lot more needs to be done.

The pharmaceutical industry should help companies located in low and middle income countries to manufacture vaccines declared safe and effective. Since billions of public money has gone into the development of these vaccines, they should not keep the knowhow a closely guarded secret, all the more so when what is involved is a pandemic. Also, contract transparency is important in view of the emergence of a questionable practice. As Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) has claimed, in its deal with Oxford University, AstraZeneca had committed not to profit off any Covid-19 vaccines “for the duration of the pandemic” and to sell the vaccine at cost. But it turns out that in a deal with a Brazilian public research body, AstraZeneca has given itself the power to declare the pandemic over as early as July 2021. At its present pace, vaccination work is unlikely to be completed before the end of ‘21. This means, says MSF, the manufacturer could charge governments and other buyers high prices. Hence, all concerned must ensure that public money funded companies act in public interest. Furthermore, governments that can afford these vaccines should see to it that those unable to afford get sufficient supplies of them. Needless to say that with a fast-moving pandemic, no one is safe unless everyone is safe.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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