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Explained: Vaccine Nationalism

by HE Times

Written By: Satya Prakash, Oct 24, 2020



In the current CoVID-19 Crisis, growing number of countries are taking a “my nation first” approach to developing and distributing potential vaccines or other pharmaceutical treatments .This is being referred to as “vaccine nationalism”.


  • The COVAX project is co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI. But the United States, China and Russia are not among countries expressing interest in COVAX. Also, European Commission has advised EU countries not to buy COVID-19 vaccines via COVAX.

  • Paul Hudson, the CEO of Sanofi, said that the United States “has the right to the largest pre-order” of a vaccine due to the investment agreement the company signed in February with the U.S. Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

  • The chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest producer of vaccine doses, said most of its vaccine “would have to go to our countrymen before it goes abroad.”


No. In 2009, during the H1N1 virus pandemic (swine Flu),a vaccine was developed within seven months, but most high-income countries turned to pharmaceutical companies within their own borders for production.

High- income countries directly negotiated large advance orders for the vaccine, crowding out poor countries


Experts in epidemiology, virology, and the social sciences — not politicians — should take the lead in devising and implementing science-based strategies to reduce the risks that Covid-19 poses to the most vulnerable across the globe and to reduce transmission .

To avoid ineffective nationalistic responses, we need a centralized, trusted governance system to ensure the appropriate flow of capital, information, and supplies.

Follow innovative financing mechanisms like

Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) model: Donors make a commitment to subsidize the purchase of a yet-to-be-developed vaccine for developing countries, providing vaccine manufacturers with an incentive to invest in what’s needed to bring a vaccine to the developing world market.

In 2007, five countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committed $1.5 billion to launch the first AMC, which led to the development and delivery of the pneumococcal vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

International Finance Facility for Immunization – It secures funds via bonds.

Beyond financing, we need

  • A global coordinated effort to estimate and account for the Available global workforce of vaccinators,

  • Operationalisation of mass vaccination programs,

  • Implementation of plans for equitably allocating vaccines on a prioritized basis, and

  • A verifiable delivery mechanism.

Customized strategies for using the available vaccine may be deployed in different countries when the vaccine first becomes available in limited quantities. Integrate key lessons on allocation and distribution from previous experiences with polio and smallpox vaccination efforts. Leverage global governance bodies (WHO, CEPI, GAVI etc) to aid and operationalize national vaccine campaigns.

A nationalistic stance toward the pandemic will prolong this global health and economic crisis. A vaccine must be allocated on the basis of the best evidence of what will stop transmission and protect the most vulnerable groups — no matter in which nation they reside. A vaccine can end the pandemic but only if all countries ensure timely, equitable, global access to it. Selling vaccines to the highest bidders is not the way to go.

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