The World Trade Organization’s Director-General, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has warned that the “vaccine nationalism’ could affect the much-expected pandemic recovery as well as decimate economic growth for all countries – rich and poor.
According to Reuters news report, the new DG’s immediate mandate and priority would be to get the WTO to do more to address the pandemic, as members accelerate efforts to lift export restrictions slowing trade-in needed medicines and supplies.
“The WTO can contribute so much more to helping stop the pandemic.
“No one is safe until everyone is safe. Vaccine nationalism at this time just will not pay, because the variants are coming. If other countries are not immunized, it will just be a blow back.
“It’s unconscionable that people will be dying elsewhere, waiting in a queue, when we have the technology.
“Both on a human health basis, as well as an economic basis, being nationalistic at this time is very costly to the international community.
“A very top priority for me would be to make sure that prior to the very important ministerial conference … that we come to solutions as to how the WTO can make vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics accessible in an equitable and affordable fashion to all countries, particularly to poor countries.
She went further to explain that various studies have shown that the global economy would lose $9 trillion in potential output if poor countries were unable to get their populations vaccinated quickly, and about half of the impact would be borne by rich countries.
What you should know
Vaccine nationalism occurs when rich countries secure doses of vaccines for their own citizens or residents and prioritises their own domestic markets before they are made available in other poorer countries.
Vaccine nationalism is usually done by countries entering into pre-purchase agreements with a major vaccine manufacturer.
For example, some developed countries had already spent tens of billions of dollars on deals with vaccine front runners such as Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc even before their effectiveness is proven.