“Unfortunately, it didn’t happen... Rich countries behaved worse than anyone's worst nightmares.”

The West promised with Covax a system of global procurement to supply COVID-19 vaccines to the Global South. But Covax failed. The mechanism had some structural errors. And, the West acted very selfish.

Covax failed

The Lancet published an article on Covax and analyzed where it went wrong.

Countries that should have funded Covax had their own bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, and those deals got priority. Moreover, some rich countries procured extra vaccines through Covax. Canada and the UK, for instance, received vaccines through Covax before (!) the rest of the world because they paid for it. Covax worked this procedure out in order to receive money, but it had some weird side effects: the Covax-system is short in vaccines, can't keep it promises and it has to reserve 1 in 5 doses for rich countries...

Covax isn't a solution for the Global South. Developing countries will receive 20% of the necessary vaccines through the charity. The rest will be paid for. Rich countries would never accept to inoculate only one in five of their citizens... And from those 2·3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines that Covax wants to roll out worldwide by early 2022, 485 million doses are for the rich countries; the countries that have vaccinated a big part of their citizens.

Slow World Bank

Another failure is the financing of low- and middle income countries so that they can buy vaccines. In Nature Justin Sandefur explains why the World Bank is so slow in giving money.

Apparently, the World Bank didn't took leadership and waited very long to act. It also put up a lot of requirements before money could flow to the South. Poor countries were thus set off to loan money. The bank didn't even offer grants, or thought about lower rates on the loans.

So what now? The bank must soften the terms of its loans for health systems and unleash more of its $12 billion pledge as grants for vaccine procurement. The longer it waits, the less good its money will do.

No IP waiver

The American president Joe Biden scored extra points with progressists on waiving the IP's on the COVID 19-vaccines. But Europe didn't follow. So it stranded. But waiving IP's is not enough. Even Chelsea Clinton knows it:

The world needs about 10 billion vaccines delivered as quickly as possible. The only way to reach that goal is for Biden to support a comprehensive World Trade Organization waiver that goes beyond vaccine patents to all technologies associated with the vaccines, and for him to persuade other countries to do the same. He also must compel pharmaceutical companies to share their vaccine technology, something well within his power for the vaccines the U.S. has funded.

But chances that this will happen, are small. Biden has started his vaccine diplomacy and Europe wants to protect its pharmaceutical industry. And that's worth the dead of thousands of people in the Global South.

Vaccine nationalism

We should never forget that one and a half year after the start of the pandemic and a year after the first positive results on vaccines “around 0.8% of all COVID-19 vaccines distributed in the world have gone to poor countries. Most of the 1.65 billion doses of vaccines administered have been in rich countries.”

And I haven't touched vaccine nationalism, the export ban in Europe and the United States, the hoarding of vaccines and the fact that non-Western vaccines aren't accepted in the West...

#vaccine #coronapandemic

What. A. Read. Novelist Arundhati Roy analyses the covid-19 catastrophe in India. In her long form feature, her main target is the Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. He wasn't prepared, he let the crisis unfold, and he didn't do anything to help the vulnerable and poor. On the contrary, the graphs were skyrocketing when he was rallying in the state of West Bengal.

‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe is a must read and an eye-opener.

It gives an insight in the complicated Indian society, where people are living a harsh life even without covid-19. The corona illness is ripping cities and families apart. Roy illustrates the catastrophe with heart wrenching stories from friends and colleagues. She sketches a very poorly build health system, and a political caste out of touch with reality. She connects the present with the past, and fears the worst.

Abraar Karan

A total different approach can be found in the podcast The Rachman Review of Financial Times columnist Gideon Rachman. He interviews Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School and a specialist in global health.

It's an interesting conversation, with some statements you don't immediately expect in a FT-radio show.

#india #coronapandemic

Vaccinated American tourists will be welcome in Europe. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, hinted in an interview with The New York Times that the American dollars are more than welcome this summer.

Her emphasis on Western vaccines was remarkable. Her allusion on “free movement” ironic.

“The Americans, as far as I can see, use European Medicines Agency-approved vaccines. This will enable free movement and the travel to the European Union. Because one thing is clear: All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A.”

A global world

Globalization struggled to stay on its feet before the pandemic. But the current crisis accentuated the unraveling world and accelerated the existing trends. We are living in a multipolar world.

Even in a banal topic like travel, geopolitics surface. By excluding non-Western vaccines, Von der Leyen made a clear statement. In her eyes, you have the good guys, and the bad ones. Or better said: the good vaccines, and the bad ones.

The situation is hilarious, because numerous countries are obliged to use Chinese, Russian or other vaccines. They have no other choice. The United States, the European Union, Canada or Australia are hoarding the 'good vaccines'. Some Western blocs are even banning the export of vaccines and raw materials.

The result are weird situations; and torn families as Bloomberg noted:

“Of the two vaccine options available in the city (Hong Kong) – one from Sinovac and another developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE – Cheung plans to sign up for Sinovac for easier movement in and out of the mainland. Meanwhile, her British husband will go for the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, she says to boost his chances of visiting family in the U.K.”


While doctors, experts and organizations like the World Health Organization are telling that every vaccine is good, the European Union sends out the message that some vaccines are better than others. Sad. But unsurprising.

Though it is true that China's visa policy too favors people vaccinated with the Chinese vaccine. The Chinese don't accept Western vaccines as a valid protector against covid-19.

Sad as well. And telling about their standards and world view.

But that doesn't speak well the lowering of the standards by the European Union.

#coronapandemic #vaccine

The pictures from India are horrific. India is experiencing an enormous surge in covid-19 cases. The number of new cases per day are in the tens of thousands. Every day thousands of deaths are added – and that's probably an underestimation. Hospitals are overwhelmed. Nurses tired. There is a lack of oxygen and hospital beds in some part of the country. And lockdowns are hitting hard the poorest of the poor.

India made errors. The government opened the economy too quickly and non-essential activities and big gatherings were made possible. Leadership is missing, too. Moreover not all people comply with social distancing or masking. Isolation is difficult in overcrowded districts, and not everyone takes the disease as serious as it should be. The vaccination drive is slow.

The bigger picture

But it would be too easy to dismiss the drama as India's own fault. There's a bigger picture. The world is an unequal place.

Countries are hoarding vaccines and holding back the raw materials of vaccine production. The American ban on the export of raw materials proved to be problematic for the Indian vaccine producers. The United States says it's Trumps fault, but the new president Joe Biden likes his 'America First'-strategy as much.

Patents too are slowing down the production. Those patents seem to be inexpugnable. Some say that scrapping the patents for covid-19 vaccines and medicines will undercut all patents. It seems they have little faith in the robustness of their glorified system...

Meanwhile, people are dying.

Waive the patents

Celebrated scientists, old heads of states and the World Health Organization are asking to lift the patents on vaccines. Medical companies are claiming that they could have already been producing vaccines or other medicines if they were involved in the production earlier.

A Canadian company said it could help, but it is not allowed to. “If we had started this last year, we could have shipped millions of doses by now. This is supposed to be like a wartime effort, everyone in it together. But that doesn’t seem to be the case”, says John Fulton, the vice-president of Biolyse in The Guardian. Opening extra production capacity seems too hard. And when companies and industries are willing to help, there are send away.

The Western initiative Covax isn't working at all. Only a fifth of the promised doses have been delivered. Million of doses are outstanding, but before those reach the developing and emerging countries thousands extra will die. Covax is sustaining a deadly monopoly of a handful vaccine makers. Thank you Bill Gates!

Some say 'the market' has failed us, but that is not entirely true. The product has been mainly sponsored by some governments and the formula and production was given to a handful of companies. The patents made sure that the market cannot work. Nothing is open. It's a closed circuit. Vaccine makers are getting rich, and Western governments are cheerleading them.

The rest of the world is the plaything of the 'vaccine diplomacy' mastered by China, India and Russia, and clumsy copied by the United States, United Kingdom and the European Union.


Are Western countries negligent?

I think so. More than a year ago, we read about production challenges like the lack of vials or a scarcity in raw materials. Debates on the necessity of patents were opened. Foreshadows of production shortages were explained by experts. Today, the fear came true. I can't remember politicians cut a ribbon of new production facility...

What is sure, is that the West is not the one who will be duped by this whole corona crisis. The Western economies are being doped as never before. Billions of dollars are invested. The 'free' money is making sure the West will survive the hiccup without too much damage. Before summer ends in the northern hemisphere most Westerners will have gotten their corona vaccine jab, and the pandemic will be quickly forgotten...

But developing nations and emerging countries won't be able to cope that easily and that quickly. Will they remember that at the start of the pandemic the world wanted to ensure that covid-19 drugs and vaccines would be universally and cheaply available? And that Western values decided otherwise?

This is what vaccine inequality looks like

Washington Post - Vaccines doses administered per 100.000 residents. The Washington Post summarized how the vaccines are distributed in the world. It shows the vaccines doses administered per 100.000 residents.

#coronapandemic #vaccine