Analysis: Pandemic control depends on equal access to vaccines – 09/01/2021

Faced with the danger of the emergence of new variants, the control of the covid-19 pandemic requires an equal distribution of vaccine doses between different regions of the world.

In an analysis published on Wednesday (1) in the journal “Cadernos de Saúde Pública”, researchers from UFBA (Federal University of Bahia) and Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) defend that the transfer of vaccine technology to low- and middle-income countries should be the next step to accelerate mass vaccination.

Seven months after the researchers’ analysis, carried out at the beginning of vaccination in Latin America, the regional inequality in the distribution of doses still persists. According to data from the Our World in Data platform, only 1.4% of people in low-income countries received at least one dose of vaccine against covid-19 until August 23, 2021.

The challenges even increased, in the assessment of Luis Eugênio Portela Fernandes de Souza, from UFBA, co-author of the article.

“We still don’t have any objective measure to increase the scale of world production of vaccine doses, which would require the suspension of patents, technology transfer and knowledge sharing”, he analyzes.

In the analysis, technology transfer is one of the ways to increase the worldwide production capacity of vaccines against covid-19.

For that, Souza adds that it would be necessary to set up new factories and share information about the production process.

In Brazil, the conversion of some laboratories for the production of covid-19 vaccines, currently concentrated at Fiocruz and the Butantan Institute, could expand the supply of doses, according to the researcher’s assessment.

The article points out the financial difficulties faced by the Covax Facility Consortium, created by the WHO (World Health Organization), with other institutions, which already affect the fulfillment of its schedule for the delivery of doses of covid-19 vaccine to poor countries.

“At the current rate, we will only complete the vaccination of adults in 2024 and, thus, we run the risk of losing sight of the effective control of this pandemic”, comments the researcher. So far, only 24.5% of the world’s population has the two full doses of the vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

For Souza, the equitable distribution of vaccines and, consequently, the acceleration of immunization in low-income countries should be a global concern.

“It is in the interest of everyone, even rich countries, that vaccination advances in all countries of the world to prevent the emergence of new variants that could threaten even populations with a high rate of vaccine coverage.”

According to the researcher, many rich country governments have taken a contrary stance, investing in the reserve of doses for their population at the expense of the distribution of doses and production technologies for low-income countries.

This is the case of countries like Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States that, with a new increase in cases, are beginning to discuss the application of a third dose in their population.

“Meanwhile, some countries in Latin America and Africa have not managed to vaccinate all their health professionals and other priority groups with two doses”, comments Souza.