Vaccine nationalism

Context- Problems posed by vaccine nationalism and the possible solutions.

What is vaccine nationalism the problems posed by vaccine nationalism?

Vaccine nationalism occurs when a country manages to secure doses of vaccine for its own citizens or residents before they are made available in other countries.

  • This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.

The problems posed by vaccine nationalism-

  • It undermines equitable access to vaccines.
  • Issue for countries with fewer resources-The most immediate effect of vaccine nationalism is that it further disadvantages countries with fewer resources and bargaining power.
  • Deprives access to public health- It deprives populations from timely access to vital public health goods.
What needs to be done? 
  1. Global framework for equitable access– International institutions, including the WHO, should coordinate negotiations to produce a framework for equitable access to vaccines during public health crises.
  2. Governments should be the custodian of public goods– Governments must step in to regulate vaccine development, innovation, manufacture, sale, and supply ultimately to the public.
  3. Prioritization for high risk groups– The first batch of the vaccines should be made available to all frontline, health and social care workers, police and others who are at high risk of getting the infection.
  4. Ensuring equity-Equitable distribution and access should be ensured. Equity entails both affordability of vaccines and access opportunities for populations across the world, irrespective of geography and geopolitics.
  5. Pre-purchase agreements and contracts should not trump equitable access to global public health goods
  6. It was important for WTO members to work together to ensure that intellectual property rights such as patents, industrial designs, copyright and protection of undisclosed information did not create barriers to timely access to affordable medical products.
Way forward-
  • Countries around the world should stop engaging in overly nationalistic behaviors.  Failure to do so will harm patient populations across the globe.
  • The WTO has a role in getting pharmaceutical firms and countries to treat vaccines and life-saving medicines as a public good.
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