US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Over the past weeks, I talked with dozens of experts about Covid-19, and the facts clearly indicate that the disease affects everyone differently: it is more dangerous for the elderly than for the young, and for men more dangerous than for women.
In addition, it disproportionately hits the poorest segments of the population. However, there is no data that would indicate a different effect on a particular nation. Covid-19 is completely uninterested in boundaries.
I emphasize this point, since since the beginning of January the world learned about the existence of the virus, governments have focused on their own national decisions: how to protect the people who live on their territory? All this is understandable. Nevertheless, since we are dealing with such an infectious and spreading virus, management should understand that if Covid-19 appears at least somewhere, it affects us all.
Many low-income countries have not yet been seriously affected by coronavirus. And we still cannot say exactly what the reason is. Be that as it may, we know that in the end the disease will spread widely in these countries, and that in the absence of additional assistance, the number of cases and deaths will probably be much larger than we have seen so far. Judge for yourself: Covid-19 has flooded cities like New York, but according to reports, one hospital in Manhattan has more beds in the intensive care unit than in most African countries. Millions of people can die.
Everything can concern you, regardless of whether you live in a developed country or not. Even if wealthy nations manage to defeat the disease in the coming months, the coronavirus could return if the pandemic continues to rage elsewhere. Sooner or later, one part of the world will infect another.
Therefore, we need a global approach to the fight against the disease. Moreover, it should be adapted to how a pandemic develops. In any case, there are at least three measures that world leaders, in particular G20 countries, can take now.
Efficient allocation of global resources
The first involves ensuring the effective distribution of global resources to combat the pandemic: we are talking about masks, gloves and tests. Ultimately, we hope that they will be enough for everyone, but while the global supply is limited, we should be forward-thinking in making complex decisions. Unfortunately, this has not yet been observed.
The leadership begins to agree on some points, for example, that physicians who are on the first front line should be tested first and get priority access to personal protective equipment. But think about solutions on a large scale: how to choose which regions or countries to send masks and tests to in priority order? So far, the following alarming question has been determining: who pays more?
I strongly believe in capitalism, but some markets simply do not work during a pandemic, and these vital supplies are excellent examples. The private sector plays an important role, but if our strategy to combat Covid-19 is based on the law of the highest offer, the number of victims of the disease will be higher than it could be.
We should use resources according to the criteria of health and medical needs. Many experts on the Ebola and HIV epidemic can help us make the right rules. Leadership from developed and developing countries should work with WHO and its partners to formally introduce them. All participating countries should then accept these rules and promise to follow them. These agreements will become especially important when the Covid-19 vaccine is finally developed, since only universal immunization will allow us to end the pandemic.
Allocating sufficient funds to create a vaccine
This brings me to the second tip for leaders: it is extremely important to allocate sufficient funds for research on vaccine development.
Now we have few reasons for joy, but science is becoming one of the few rays of hope. Three years ago, our foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and several governments formed the Epidemic Preparedness Coalition (CEPI). The goal was to speed up the vaccine testing process and provide priority funding for new and faster ways of immunization. We wanted to be prepared in case the new virus spreads around the world.
CEPI is already working on eight potential coronavirus vaccines, and scientists are confident that they can create at least one in a year and a half. In this case, this will be the shortest period in history between the emergence of a new pathogen and the development of a vaccine against it.
Be that as it may, the schedule is funded. Many countries have transferred CEPI funds over the past two weeks, but coalitions need at least $ 2 billion to finance the work. Innovation is full of surprises, but G20 countries need to take an active part in this today.
Vaccine Financing, Planning, Production and Distribution
In addition, they should ensure that funding is allocated solely to vaccine development, and not to its production and distribution. This will require even more money and planning and is the third measure that the G20 should begin to reflect on.
First of all, we still do not know which vaccine will be the most effective, and each of them requires a special production technology. This means that countries should now invest in different types of production infrastructure, recognizing that some will ultimately not be used. In addition, after laboratories develop an effective vaccine, we will lose more than one month, waiting for the expansion of the capacities of a suitable manufacturer.
Price is also a factor that cannot be ignored. Even if the private sector is ready to step up efforts to produce a vaccine, it should not lose money because of this. In addition, any vaccine from Covid-19 should be considered as a “global public good”, that is, to remain accessible to all. Fortunately, organizations such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) have long been helping low- and middle-income countries participate in major vaccination campaigns.
Over the past 20 years, thanks in large part to collaboration with countries such as the UK and France, GAVI has worked with WHO and UNICEF to introduce 13 new vaccines, including against Ebola, in 73 of the world’s poorest countries. These organizations are prepared to do exactly the same with the Covid-19 vaccine, but they need more funding. More specifically, GAVI will need $ 7.4 billion over the next five years to support existing immunization efforts. Distribution of the vaccine from Covid-19 will cost even more.
Investing in poor global health
Such demands for funding of several billion dollars may seem exorbitant, especially in the current period of economic recession, but this price is not comparable to what we have to pay if we fake vaccination and the epidemic continues.
For 20 years now, I have been urging leaders from all over the world to invest in the health of the world’s poorest people, trying to convince them that this is the right step. Pandemics, on the other hand, remind us that helping our neighbor is not only the right thing, but also a visionary act.
In the end, humanity is united not only by common values and social ties. We are biologically connected to each other by a network of microbes that connect the health of one person with the health of others. In this pandemic, we are all interconnected. Therefore, our answer should be the same.
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