Social Responsibility

Urgent plea to close the vaccine inequity gap

Health Industry Hub | June 23, 2021 |
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The Immunisation Coalition is issuing an urgent plea to Australians to help close the global COVID-19 vaccination gap by donating to UNICEF Australia in a bid to improve access in lower income countries and ultimately facilitate herd immunity.

According to Chair and Director of the Immunisation Coalition Scientific Advisory Committee, Professor Robert Booy, the vaccination disparity represents a significant global issue.

“High-income countries have reserved more than half of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine doses, despite representing only 14% of the world’s population. This compares to less than 5% vaccine uptake in low-income countries, which represents approximately two-thirds of the world’s population,” said Prof Booy.

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, Director at Immunisation Coalition told Health Industry Hub “G7 countries have pledged 1 billion doses but this is a drop in the ocean. China has sent vaccine to 53 countries free of charge. It will not provide sufficient doses to the 2 billion people living in  extreme poverty and does not go towards people in low and middle income countries. These countries spend over $US 900billion annually on defence and 1 billion doses is less than 2% of their defence budget.This virus is a more pressing war effort. Australia and other countries outside the G7 should pledge their entire COVAX allocation and further match their domestic doses to the COVAX global effort.”

A solution to the vaccine production bottleneck would require widespread technology transfer to enable the expansion of manufacturing capacity. Currently few countries have the domestic capacity to rapidly produce COVID-19 vaccines on their own and instead will need vaccine companies to actively share knowledge, technology, and data with domestic manufacturers. This is a significant burden on the resources and expertise of the vaccine companies – at having to redirect their resources – who are already stretched in their current capacity.

Prof McLaws noted “It’s now time to become flexible and philanthropic – where a relationship between the vaccine developers enables technology transfer to the benefit of the developer and the recipient country. It’s in everyone’s best interest. Without improving vaccination manufacturing and uptake we are unlikely to see the end of this pandemic for many years.”

The elimination of trade barriers is critical in facilitating cross-border supply.

“The independent review of WHO response identified several areas that need improving to rapidly respond to a pandemic and one was the ‘whole of government’ involvement and member countries engaged in the early response decisions. This is a good place to make a start with eliminating trade barriers and moving skilled workforce to new manufacturing sites during the early phases of a pandemic,” Prof McLaws told Health Industry Hub.

There are also key barriers to the deployment of COVID vaccines in low to middle income countries.

“The challenges to deployment is not just the delivery to the country which could be removed by in-country manufacturing, but the logistics of sufficient supplies and accessing people in remote communities,” commented Prof McLaws.

The Immunisation Coalition and UNICEF Australia are urging Australians vaccinated against COVID-19 to give back by paying it forward.

“Every ten dollars donated will provide one person with a COVID-19 vaccination in a low-income country. Giving $100 could protect 10 people,” said Libby Hodgson, UNICEF Australia’s Director of Fundraising and Communications.

Prof Gary Grohman, Director at Immunisation Coalition said “Every dollar donated goes direct to UNICEF and with end of financial year just around the corner, donations are tax-deductable.”

Dr Ginni Mansberg added “We are calling on Australians to help make a difference in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Donate this week to maximise the tax impact before June 30, 2021. Head to UNICEF Australia to make a donation today.

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