The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to impact countries around the globe in fundamentally different ways. While certain nations are experiencing some of the most severe economic downturns, others are shattered by social unrest or face increases in extreme poverty rates (Morrison et al., 2020). Despite it being complex to make transparent international comparisons, there is no doubt that countries have used different strategies to tackle the pandemic-induced challenges.
One of the most piercing issues is the development of a vaccine. The efficacy and timeliness of vaccine implementation and production is related to a country’s vaccine strategy. Many wealthier nations have embraced a nationalistic approach, securing the best outcomes for their citizens and overlooking global concerns (Morrison et al., 2020). Others have operated within international frameworks. This essay will argue that international cooperation is essential during every stage of vaccine development. From clinical trials to vaccine distribution, a global approach is crucial in achieving optimal results in vaccine quality and effectively tackling economic challenges.
Inequality in Distribution
Vulnerable populations may not get immediate access to the vaccine if nations pursue nationalistic policies. In a competitive battle, wealthier countries will have control of which citizens get the vaccines first (Morrison et al., 2020). This is critical at a time when there are over 29 million individuals infected worldwide, and over 900 thousand deaths (“Coronavirus update (Live)”, 2020). Once a vaccine is developed, demand for it will exceed supply (Torjesen, 2020). Wealthier nations have engaged in bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies so they can supply their population with vaccines without delay (Morrison et al., 2020). By pre-purchasing large amounts of vaccines, countries risk deliberately complicating allocation issues once the vaccine is developed.
The United States, being one of the worst-hit countries, has pursued isolationist policies. After withdrawing from the WHO and suspending funding for the organization, the government has promised to supply its citizens with vaccines (Morrison et al., 2020). The WHO can become a fruitful platform for international policy-making. The current state of affairs will call for timely global cooperation on issues of allocation and equitable access (Torjesen, 2020). Without the United States, cooperation will be hindered and decisions will not be aligned.
The US is not alone in its mission to dominate the potential vaccine market. The United Kingdom has allegedly invested 340 million to purchase vaccine doses by striking deals with six pharmaceutical companies (Torjesen, 2020). Other countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Brazil are following suit by working with manufacturing companies (Morrison et al., 2020). As a result, all nations risk experiencing vaccine shortage or surplus. In this context, experts warn that the vaccine will initially be expensive and more readily available for countries with a higher purchasing power (Torjesen, 2020). Whether or not nations choose to operate within international organizations will directly impact the equal distribution of vaccines when they are available.
International collaboration is essential during vaccine approval and testing. Candidate vaccines must be evaluated on a global scale to establish how effective and safe they are. If knowledge between scientists is not shared, this may lead to the development of a weak vaccine (Momtazmanesh et al., 2020). The ongoing competition between countries with many pursuing geopolitical agendas has widened the gap between science, diplomacy and the health sector (Fidler, 2020). Inadequate dialogue, characterized by competitiveness and little or no trust will result in negative outcomes for all parties.
This time like no other demands for countries to work together on vaccine development and implementation. The speed with which scientists shared the initial genomic sequence of the COVID-19 virus was an example of a strong collaborative effort (Momtazmanesh et al., 2020). This allowed researchers to study the virus, its mutation rates and capacity to spread. The WHO was key in uniting global efforts and supplying resources to more than one hundred countries in need (Momtazmanesh et al., 2020). International organizations have played a key role in the management of the pandemic and their guidance is fundamental in vaccine development.
Currently, countries have distanced themselves away from international initiatives. Many have focused on “at-risk financing” of manufacturing companies (Morrison et al., 2020). This behavior can have detrimental effects, as countries risk purchasing weak vaccines that have not gone through all clinical trials (Krause et al., 2020). Governments will falsely assume that the promising vaccine would cause a reduction in infections and consider the population protected (Krause et al., 2020). The public in turn will accept that they are protected, overlook precautionary measures and spread the virus. In order to prevent weak vaccine efficacy, it is vital for the world to collaborate in vaccine development, evaluating candidate vaccines globally.
Uneven Economic Recovery
During times of economic globalization, collaboration in vaccine development is in every state’s national interest. Nationalistic approaches will trigger different recovery speeds for countries’ economies, causing disruptions on a global scale (Aspinall, 2020). Lower income countries are among some of the hardest-hit as they experience rising poverty rates, civil uprisings and famine (Morrison et al., 2020). They will also be the countries that will require foreign aid and more time for a full recovery. Without international assistance and a joint approach to vaccine implementation, they may fall into deeper recessions and experience increased social inequality (Aspinall, 2020). If countries do not negotiate and decide on a strategic and responsible way of allocating the finite supplies of the vaccine, this will lead to a slower economic recovery at the global level.
Increased Interdependence and Groupthink
Critics claim that due to globalization and nations’ interdependency, it is difficult for countries to manage the challenges triggered by the pandemic. When nations address difficulties independently they can plan their resources and focus on domestic problems exclusively (Torjesen, 2020). This standpoint is flawed when it comes to a global health crisis where international collaboration is crucial. Some countries may take decades to recover without foreign aid. Policies created on an international level can help in managing both national crises and those abroad. When it comes to vaccine development, if findings are not shared immediately this may increase virus related deaths.
Furthermore, critics consider that it is precisely due to the richer nations’ investments that so many companies can work on the vaccine simultaneously. Without these separate costly investments, researchers would not be able to work on the vaccines with the urgency that a pandemic requires (Torjesen, 2020). Competition between nations fosters competition between pharmaceutical companies. Nevertheless, speeding up the vaccine process can lead to an ineffective and weak vaccine.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people worldwide and continues to do so. While governments are quick to make decisions on a national level, the global dimension of the problem is largely overlooked. A wholesome approach is vital in times of a global pandemic when joint action needs to be immediate and produce long-lasting effects. Despite the view that competition and national investments in the search for a vaccine can speed up the development process, countries risk creating an unsuccessful vaccine. Furthermore, when nations choose to monopolize the vaccine market, fair access and distribution become difficult. Lastly, it is hard to disregard the fact that the world is inevitably interconnected. If one nation recovers from the pandemic-induced challenges faster than another they will not be able to advance culturally, economically and politically without global cooperation.
Aspinall, E. (2020). The rise of vaccine nationalism. British Foreign Policy 1Group. Web.
Coronavirus update (Live): 15,174,672 cases and 621,700 deaths from COVID-19 virus pandemic. (1548). Worldometer – real time world statistics. Web.
Fidler, D. P. (2020). Vaccine nationalism’s politics. Science, 369(6505), 749. Web.
Krause, P., Fleming, T. R., Longini, I., Henao-Restrepo, A. M., Peto, R., Dean, N., Halloran, M., Huang, Y., Fleming, T., Gilbert, P., DeGruttola, V., Janes, H., Krause, P., Longini, I., Nason, M., Peto, R., Smith, P., Riveros, A., Gsell, P., … Henao-Restrepo, A. (2020). COVID-19 vaccine trials should seek worthwhile efficacy. The Lancet, 396(10253), 741-743. Web.
Momtazmanesh, S., Ochs, H. D., Uddin, L. Q., Perc, M., Routes, J. M., Vieira, D. N., Al-Herz, W., Baris, S., Prando, C., Rosivall, L., Latiff, A., Ulrichs, T., Roudenok, V., Becerra, J., Salunke, D. B., Goudouris, E., Condino-Neto, A., Stashchak, A., Kryvenko, O., … Stashchak, M. (2020). All together to fight COVID-19. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 102(6), 1181-1183. Web.
Morrison, J. S., Carroll, A., & Bliss, K. E. (2020). Is it possible to avert chaos in the vaccine scramble? Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1- 7. Web.
Torjesen, I. (2020). COVID-19: Pre-purchasing vaccine—sensible or selfish? BMJ, m3226. Web.