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Global Vaccine Equity - Challenges and Significance

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Global vaccine equity aims to make vaccines accessible to the public in a fair manner, irrespective of any differences in socioeconomic or racism.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Published At March 1, 2024
Reviewed AtMarch 25, 2024

Introduction

The term global vaccine equity refers to the term wherein each individual will have fair, easy, and just access to the delivery of vaccines on a global scale, irrespective of nationality, caste, race, ethnicity, gender, and status. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the weakness and vulnerability of the global healthcare community. COVID-19 vaccine inequity had a profound effect on many poor and developing countries. It also highlighted the inequality prevailing in the global community regarding the delivery of response and rehabilitation or recovery. The World Health Organization, therefore, stressed the need to develop a comprehensive approach towards serious diseases. It is important for everyone to be vaccinated to fight the disease, irrespective of race, caste, creed, sex, poverty, or nationality. To date, many children in the poor nations do not have access to global vaccines. Hence, the urge to implement a strategy for global immunization through global vaccine equity.

Why Is Global Vaccine Equity Important?

To achieve global health equity, it is important to achieve global vaccination among all groups of people worldwide to prevent the transmission and occurrence of diseases and promote health by inducing immunization in each and every individual. The disparity in healthcare services can be derived from the fact that many developed nations have lifted the safety measures for COVID-19. On the other hand, many poor countries are still waiting for their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Hence, to minimize this gap, global vaccine equity is very important. A similar situation was observed in the year 2022 when the global outbreak of the monkeypox virus occurred. The inequitable distribution of the monkey virus vaccine led to delayed delivery of healthcare services in a few countries in Africa.

Therefore, it can be rightly said that global vaccine equity is important for public welfare, socioeconomic development, and the recovery of jobs. With the advent of global vaccine equity, no more vulnerable children, women, and families will be harmed. It will help to reinforce the fact that no individual's life is more important than the other. A vaccine is very important as it helps to produce antibodies when injected into the body. The antibodies help the body to fight against pathogenic microorganisms, thereby, strengthening the immune system of the host’s body. A stronger immune system can provide long-lasting immunity and protection against harmful diseases.

What Are the Factors Governing Global Vaccine Equity?

There are five major factors that are pivotal for achieving global vaccine equity. These include:

  • Vaccine Production - A new vaccine is developed after going through a number of clinical trials and launched in the market only after getting regulatory approval from the authorizing bodies. But this is a very long process that can take up to 10 to 15 years. Also, a lot of capital investment is required for the vaccine development process. The production cost may reach up to one billion dollars also. A huge amount is expended on the pharmaceutical companies by the United States yearly. Usually, deadly and recurrent viruses occur frequently in poor countries, and the pharmaceutical industry has less financial incentives to develop vaccines for tropical diseases occurring in low-income countries. Therefore, international organizations should focus on developing treatments for such neglected tropical diseases.

  • Vaccine Affordability - One of the major requirements is to make the vaccine doses affordable to each and every individual. There have been vaccine monopolies by certain pharmaceutical companies that have even been supported by the Government. As a result, the prices were set very high (sometimes increased exponentially), thereby impairing global vaccine equity. Hence, international organizations should criticize such sudden inflation in the prices of vaccines.

  • Vaccine Scalability - Poor countries lack the capital investment, technical skills, raw materials, and even the manufacturing facilities required for the development and scalability of vaccines. Hence, such low-income countries rely heavily on developed countries for diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. Therefore, there is a need to diversify the pharmaceutical setup to increase the scalability of vaccines. Some of the problems that can negatively impact the scalability and production of vaccines include

    • Lack of capital, technology, and expert advice.

    • Difficulty in achieving quality standards.

    • Unsupportive international policies.

    • Diversified demand for vaccines.

    • Lack of reliable infrastructure, including electrical energy and transport facilities.

  • Vaccine Distribution - There is an urgent need to develop a well-organized system that can handle the development and allocation of vaccines efficiently without any bias. WHO has taken the initiative to allocate fair distribution of vaccines worldwide. Also, wastage issues need to be tackled by improving the supply chain of vaccines. If the rich nations purchase more than their demand, a lot of vaccine doses may expire. Subsequently, if they donate these vaccines that are nearing their expiry dates to poor nations, they may expire before being utilized. Hence, proper monitoring and tracking of vaccines should be done before their supply. Strategies that aim to reduce vaccine wastage should be implemented.

  • Vaccine Deployment - In order to achieve global vaccine equity, there is a need to drive a public health campaign that will take a public-centered health approach. It is very important to make vaccines available to people living in the most remote places in a particular targeted area.

Conclusion

Globally, vaccine production, development, scalability, and distribution depend on a number of factors, including socio-economic, financial, political, and public health matters. There is a need to adopt a human-centric public health approach to achieve the goal of global vaccine equity. It is the right of every human being to get medical aid irrespective of any sort of disparities or differences.

Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar
Dr. Kaushal Bhavsar

Pulmonology (Asthma Doctors)

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