COVID vaccine has to be distributed equally warns WHO

World leaders have been told there needs to be an equitable roll out of the COVID vaccines across the world if the global economic recovery is to be maintained.

At the Special Session of the General Assembly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders heard new data has concluded that leaving low- and lower-middle-income countries (LLMICs) without access to vaccines amid the COVID-19 pandemic will cause significant economic damage that puts decades of economic progress at risk – for both LLMICs and advanced economies alike.

The report by the Eurasia Group analysed ten major economies – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Qatar, South Korea, Sweden, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States – to assess  the economic benefits to advanced economies of contributing to the work of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.

The ACT Accelerator, led by World Health Organisation (WHO) and partnering with the world’s leading international health organisations, supports the development and equitable distribution of the tests, treatments and vaccines to fight COVID-19. However, the programme still has a significant funding gap of $28.2 billion, with $4.3 billion needed urgently to fast-track critical areas of work.

If the shortfall isn’t met, the WHO has warned low- and low-middle income countries will have delayed access to the vaccines and other measures to fight the pandemic in 2021, which will result in a protracted pandemic, with severe economic consequences, not just for these countries by also for the wider global economy.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, called on countries to commit to the work of the ACT Accelerator, stating that, “The ACT Accelerator is the global solution to ending the acute phase of the pandemic as quickly as possible by ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 tools. Contributing to the ACT Accelerator it is not just the right thing to do – it’s the smart thing for all countries – socially, economically and politically.”

The report, which was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found that the economic benefits of a global equitable vaccine solution alone for the 10 countries included in the analysis would be at least $153 billion in 2020-21, rising to $466 billion by 2025. This is more than 12 times the $38 billion estimated total cost of the ACT Accelerator. This figure was compiled using the expected negative effects of sustained coronavirus outbreaks in LLMICs, based on the downside and baseline scenarios of the IMF’s October 2020 World Economic Outlook forecasts.

Hassan Damluji, Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commenting on the report’s findings said, “The moral case for an equitable  global solution to the COVID-19 crisis has always been clear, but with high-income countries reeling from a huge shock, their governments are increasingly focusing on investments that can help their own economies to rebound. This report adds to the body of evidence that shows that the ACT Accelerator is precisely one of those investments. It is both the right thing to do, and an investment that will pay dividends by bringing the global economy back from the brink, benefiting all nations.”

So far, the 10 countries featured in the report have contributed $2.4 billion to the work of the ACT Accelerator, with the UK committing just over US$ 1 billion, and Germany, Canada, Japan and France committing US$ 618 million, US$ 290 million, US$ 229 million and US$ 147 million respectively.