With the start of vaccination against Covid-19, 2020 has ended up projecting the first step towards the end of the pandemic. However, 2021 has brought new uncertainties and challenges. Based on the idea of ”one health” for humans, animals and the planet, the spread of the virus has its roots in previous inequalities that result in weak health systems, informal employment or employment. access to education, while exposing the effects of the currency climate. Faced with the crisis of multilateralism, Covid-19 and globalization, what are the keys to the dispute over vaccines?
The first key issue is human security, although collective and national measures are not always well defined. As deaths continue to rise, the “massive” takeover of vaccines by some states reveals new forms of global inequality.
According to the directory of the Center for Education and Research for Peace (CEIPAZ), Dr. Fernando Lamata argues that the richest countries, which represent 14% of the world population, have monopolized 84% of vaccines, which could to be classified as a “vaccine aside.” In addition, the COVAX mechanism, created for the purchase and distribution of vaccines in developing countries, turned out to be a “good idea that did not live up to expectations” , as journalist Ann Danaiya Usher points out in The Lancet.
The chiaroscuro is also seen through the prism of geopolitics with the so-called “vaccine diplomacy”, implemented thanks to donations from developed states to developing states, as announced at the last G7 summit. While these measures help build the scaffolding for emergencies, they are ad hoc and partial and do not address the underlying problem, while deepening asymmetric core-periphery relationships.
Considering that less than 25% of the world’s population has received at least one dose, the vast differences between continents and that about ten billion more are still needed to achieve herd immunity on a global scale, the decision of the G7 to donate a billion doses is insufficient.
The second key is global governance, both in health and in trade, because market regulation is crucial in terms of intellectual property and vaccines. In this context, certain multilateral actions have proposed promising alternatives. Among them is the recent resolution on strengthening the World Health Organization’s preparedness and response to health emergencies, which highlights the need to create international standards to protect human security.
In the area of international trade, the World Trade Organization (WTO) discussed India and South Africa’s proposal on the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights for vaccines and other drug-related products and technologies. Covid-19. The proposal is supported by around 100 middle and low income countries.
After the initial rejection, the United States, European Parliament, China and other states are ready to discuss the matter and at the last WTO meeting it was decided to go this route. Is global governance effective? Is the discussion of the question sufficient? No, but the changes start with a discussion.
Lack of international rules
Global governance is based on international law, as a set of rules charged with building a public space where the voices of the weakest are heard, as the Finnish lawyer Martti Koskenniemi has said. Therefore, the third key to understanding the issue lies in international law.
Why is a legal discussion on trade-related intellectual property rights necessary in the midst of a global health emergency? The key may not be international law, but its absence. There are no international standards for pandemics or unions – the sum of two or more epidemics – that set limits on intellectual property in a global emergency.
The proposal for an international instrument to prepare for future pandemics, sponsored by the World Health Organization, the President of the Council of Europe and more than 30 heads of state is therefore welcome. This shows that, for a global question, the answer must (and will be) necessarily global. And despite the fact that the legal path has only just begun and that strengthening multilateralism is essential to give it a path, the document underlines the need to strengthen international law in the face of individual actions.
Other options to get out of the crisis
Today, given the growing weight of transnational corporations, there are other options for vaccine manufacturing that rely on collaboration between the public and private sectors: the “third way”. These ideas, cited by economist Mariana Mazzucato in her book “The Entrepreneurial State”, are close to what AstraZeneca is doing today.
The production capacity of certain Latin American and Caribbean countries – Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, for example – could make viable alternatives in the face of a pressing factor such as time. Above all, taking into account the deadlines for discussion at the WTO, as well as the processes of transfer of know-how and logistics that will be necessary subsequently, if the temporary suspension is implemented.
In summary, three aspects must be addressed to achieve vaccine accessibility: the challenges of protecting human security, the lack of international standards, and the challenges of effective global governance. Addressing these three issues multilaterally is the basis for building resilience in an increasingly unequal and vulnerable world.
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