Vaccines: A Call to Action

Chang-Chuan Chan
Chang-Chuan Chan

International Advisory Chair, Asia Pacific Hub of the Reform for Resilience Commission

Distinguished Professor, College of Public Health and Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Taiwan University

Although vaccine development has been remarkable during the pandemic, at both national and international level, there have been significant challenges in manufacturing,  vaccine rollouts and equitable distribution across countries.

In June 2021, these challenges were the subject of an open call to the G7 for action by Professor Chang-Chuan Chan in the Research Report released by the Reform for Resilience Commission.

Asia Pacific countries (APAC) has led the world of preventing major outbreaks in 2020 during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by implementing strict non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as border control, contact tracing masking and social distancing at a very early stage and maintaining them until now. The success in containing COVID-19 epidemic in the APAC region, while preserving health for their own citizens, has contributed to limiting export of the threats of SARS-CoV-2 to lives and humanities globally, including the people living in the developed world of G7 countries. Though we all endured together economic loss, social exclusion, physical injury and mental distress in this pandemic, APAC people suffered most in particular from the longest border control and universal mask wearing.

As the pandemic entered into 2021, rapid vaccination of effective vaccines has become the weapon that humanity needs to overcome our common enemy, SARS-CoV-2, of this pandemic and bring us back to a safe and healthy post-COVID world. Unfortunately, significant coverage of vaccination in population occurred only in a few developed countries as currently available vaccines are developed, manufactured or controlled mainly by countries, such as United Kingdom, United States and some EU countries. The rest of world, such as APAC, has minimal vaccinations for its populations as the majority of countries in the world have no manufacturing capability and/or purchasing power of vaccines. The lack of access to vaccines can create reservoirs of unvaccinated population in parts of the world and make them ready for initiating new waves of pandemic by cultivating new variants of SARS-CoV-2. Eventually global health security will be compromised, and pandemic will be worsened. The tragedy of people in India who are suffering from the recent outbreak of COVID-19 now is exactly the result of vaccine inequality across countries.

What should and can G7 countries do to alleviate the dire situation of global inequality in vaccine accessibility? We suggest the International Commission of R4R to persuade G7 to adopt a resolution on vaccine equity consisted with the following three pledges in the upcoming meeting. The first one is to adopt a one-plus-one (1+1) vaccine distribution policy. G7 counties should export one dose of vaccine to non-G7 countries for every dose they use in the G7 counties. The second one is to establish regional hubs of COVID-19 vaccine supply chain, including building manufacturing plants and organizing delivery logistics at locations close to the populations in need. The third one is to waive IP rights during the pandemic, allowing privately-own companies in developing and newly developed countries to produce COVID-19 vaccines used by local people at affordable prices. The APAC-Hub of R4R can serve as the first location for G7 to execute this resolution.