BWI: End vaccine inequality

(Photo: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

Vaccine inequality will prolong the COVID 19 pandemic:  With 60 percent of people in higher income countries vaccinated compared to as low as one percent of people in poor countries, the pandemic will not be over any time soon and countries will continue to experience wave after wave of COVID19 cases, costing millions of lives.


Vaccine inequality is irresponsible:  With unequal distribution of the vaccine globally, the world is running the risk of dangerous and more deadly mutations, that could render the vaccines less effective and then again no one will be safe, whether you live in a rich or poor country. An infectious disease like COVID-19 will remain a threat globally as long as it exists anywhere in the world.

Vaccine inequality will undermine global economic recovery: Without equal access to vaccines, economic recovery will be unequal amongst countries. Our economies are connected by global supply chains that are affected by shortages, and price increases that are the result of delays in transportation and lower productive output, because of the response to COVID19. Low vaccination rates have proven to be highly disruptive to exports, particularly of processed components, thus affecting supply chains. Whilst under-vaccinated countries are most affected, there are also broader economic implications for the rest of the world.  If a large part of the population is unvaccinated, countries cannot fully re-open, and this has also damaged growth prospects. A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) calculates those countries that have vaccinated less than 60 percent of their population by mid-2022 stand to lose USD 2.3 trillion in output between 2022 and 2025 and that two thirds of this will be borne by emerging markets. Lower productive output translates into fewer jobs, which leads to underemployment and informalisation, exerts downward pressure on wages, erodes working conditions and undermines trade unionism.  Amongst those most affected are migrant workers and communities that are dependent on remittances as long as the COVID19 pandemic results in mobility restrictions and uncertainty of travel globally.

Vaccine inequality is the result of vaccine nationalism: According to the United Nations, enough vaccines will be produced in 2021 to cover 70 percent of the global population of 7.8 billion. However, most vaccines are being reserved for wealthy countries, while other vaccine-producing countries are restricting the export of doses so they can ensure that their own citizens get vaccinated first this is “vaccine nationalism”.  WHO has set a global target of 70 per cent of the population of all countries to be vaccinated by mid-2022, but to reach this goal a more equitable access to vaccines will be needed.


Vaccine inequality is an injustice:  There is the moral responsibility for getting more vaccines to under-vaccinated countries. While in 2020 COVID19 deaths seemed non-discriminatory on the basis of wealth, now more poor people bearing the brunt of COVID-19 cases and related mortality as they have inadequate access to public health initiatives and medical care. 

Vaccine inequality undermines human development:  The slower economic recovery forecast in low and lower-middle income countries will have a lasting impact on socio-economic development, setting back progress by decades. Unequal distribution of the vaccines will deepen inequality and poverty. UNDP research shows that the poverty gap between countries is set to rise and that by 2030 eight out of ten people pushed into poverty because of COVID-19 will live in countries on the lower end of human development, with the heaviest burden falling on Africa. As many as 169 million people could be driven into extreme poverty in these countries by 2030. 

BWI demands an immediate end to vaccine inequality

We urge the United Nations, international multilateral agencies, international finance institutions and governments to provide resources and create policy space to ensure that all people, wherever they are in the world have equal access to vaccinations for protection against the COVID-19 infection and that they widen the recognition to include as many of the available vaccines globally. 

We call on pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson to end this practice of prioritising vaccines to wealthy countries and to allow other manufacturers to produce their vaccines, including the possibility of a proposed temporary waiver of intellectual property rights on COVID-19-related pharmaceuticals. 

We call on governments, private capital and international finance institutions to make bold policy choices and investments for economic recovery as well as in areas of governance, social protection, green economy and digitalization that prioritises human centred development to address the inequality and poverty gap and to accelerate a radically different and just future.