Sixty-four of the world’s richest countries have joined forces to distribute Covid-19 vaccines to less developed nations. Their efforts illustrate how central global co-operation will be in the fight against the virus and in overcoming economic obstacles to vaccination.
The Covax Facility, comprising 64 developed nations, is a global initiative that is part of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, initiated by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It has helped vaccinate half the world’s children against deadly diseases.
Other global initiatives have successfully curbed the spread of deadly disease and viruses. The Covax Facility is inspired by their successes. In 1988, the World Health Assembly – the decision-making body of the World Health Organisation – passed a resolution to eradicate poliomyelitis, better known as polio.
That same year, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was founded. It eradicated 99.9 per cent of polio incidences, saving the lives of an estimated 1.5 million people. An additional 16 million people would have been paralysed by the debilitating disease were it not for the GPEI’s vaccination campaigns.
The GPEI had, however, 32 years to achieve this goal. The international community is hoping to contain the coronavirus pandemic in much less time. Funds and co-ordinated efforts are needed at all levels for the global Covid-19 vaccination campaign to be a success. The UAE is a long-time supporter of Gavi, and its first donor from the Middle East. As early as 2011, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, contributed $ 33 million to immunisation campaigns in Afghanistan, and more than $150 million since 2013 towards polio vaccination in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2017, the UAE pledged $5 million to for a programme meant to help developing nations modernise their immunisation systems.
Even the most developed countries have struggled to contain this global health crisis. The US is the world’s biggest economy, yet it is the nation with the most Covid-19 cases.
Yet deploying an adequate coronavirus response is even more challenging for developing nations. Two out of the three most coronavirus-hit countries globally are poor countries with large populations. But if countries work together to deliver vaccines, the result will benefit everyone, including Middle Eastern countries that have recently seen a surge in infections. This includes crisis-hit Lebanon, which has witnessed a massive outbreak since a blast tore through the capital Beirut on August 4. In neighbouring Syria, the government has consistently underreported Covid-19 cases. Although it is much wealthier, neighbouring Israel has had to go into lockdown again after a renewed outbreak, which also struck the isolated Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Since the onset of the pandemic, the UAE has led the fight against the virus at home and abroad. The UAE has sent more than 1,412 tonnes of Covid-19 aid all over the world, with 1.4 million medical workers supported. No one country is safe from infection if another is left behind.
Another challenging factor for the Covax Facility is the absence of an internationally available vaccine that is established to be, without a doubt, efficient and safe against Covid-19. This will take time and continued global investment. As vaccine trials continue around the world, medical efforts to come up with effective treatments and ways to curb the virus remain vital.
In addition to the medical challenges of discovering an effective vaccine, and producing enough shots for the entire world population, delivering the jab to the four corners of the world will be “the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry,” according to Alexandre de Juniac, the International Air Transport Association’s chief executive. The equivalent of 8,000 Boeing 747s are needed for this mammoth endeavour. But IATA is already working with global health institutions, airports and drug firms to devise a global airlift plan.
The coronavirus has taken advantage of modern society’s interconnectivity to spread across the globe. Beating it requires concerted international efforts, so that no one is left behind.