Vaccine nationalism: all you need to know

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Vaccine nationalism is the new threat to countries getting fast vaccinations

Vaccine nationalism could see a resurgence as fair access to all remains a challenge. Many countries fear they will not get vaccinations as soon as possible. Moreover, this could severely affect a return to normalcy in many economies.

As soon as COVID-19 vaccines hit the market, they will be in short supply. This of course means that thousands will not have access initially. Even within countries, some groups might have priority over others. That’s why many fear vaccine nationalism, where countries hold on to vaccine for sake of endangering others.

Many wealthier nations are already investing heavily on tests and production. If wealthier countries get the vaccine first, they will definitely prioritise short supplies for their own citizens. Nonetheless, health officials are warning that betting on vaccines still in early stages of development might be haphazard.

What can Canada do to obtain it first?

In order to ensure its batch of vaccine, Canada needs to:

  • Provide funding for the development and manufacture of their own candidates to vaccine research. This can speed up the process.
  • Manufacture a vaccine and then prevent it from being exported.
  • Make remunerative deals to reserve or preorder a large bath developed elsewhere.

Still, there’s no certainty whether this can ensure Canada getting hand on the first number of doses. If we compare to previous pandemics, for example the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, wealthier nations were indeed able to obtain first batches. This also meant lower-income countries were left with no supplies. Still, Canada were left out because of lack of manufacturing facilities. Once again, in 1976, the USA resolved to vaccinate its entire population for swine flu. That was before they even allowed vaccine producers to export to Canada or other countries.

What can we expect?

Humanitarian groups are concerned that rich countries will end up buying all the supplies in advance, leaving distribution to the rest of the world limited. In an article for The Conversation, York University’s Lexchin protested that it’s still unclear whether COVAX will fairly distribute the vaccines.

Because COVID-19 is a global pandemic, outbreaks have the potential to travel fast. This means that, in order for us to be safe, all other countries need be safe as well. Dr. Noni MacDonald of Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax, said that even if the entire population is vaccinated, not everyone will be protected. Since vaccines don’t work on everyone, most of the population could remain at risk even after nation-wide vaccinations.

That is why, in order to combat the pandemic, we need further coordination between governments and leaders. In order for our world to become a better place, we must put aside our differences and come to a greater understanding of our species. And this pandemic could force us to do just that.