This planet is fragile.
Who will not agree to the statement delivered by Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO (World Health Organization) emergencies program?
He stated it on 29 December 2020 — two days shy of the first anniversary of China’s warning the world of what then was still an unnamed virus.
What was later christened as Covid-19 (coronavirus disease-2019) has shown a potential of eradicating the globe’s population had we acted late. It can, really, in a manner that could not have been not dissimilar to the Spanish flu of the 1920s in which more than a hundred million had perished.
All countries have scampered in reaction, but the modern changing times have long wilted the imagined borders of nations. The virus had penetrated communities, far and near, until it claimed two million lives — the last rounded-up count as of last weekend.
It continues to kill and claim more victims, while various countries have lost days, weeks and months in the race to discover the vaccine that would eradicate the menace.
In less than a year, the pharmaceutical companies in the United States, China, United Kingdom, Russia and countries in Europe have rolled out their vials from their factories.
Vaccines are now available to inoculate chosen people, but not the rest of the world.
Early into the race, development of the vaccine was also besmirched with intrigues and controversies as economic rivals and geopolitical divisions have risen to demolish the gains of unity and cooperation to save the human race.
Greed also marked the announcement of the availability of the vaccines as the wealthier countries have blocked — or restrained — avenues for developing and poor nations to be able to procure a more equitable share of the vials to stem the spread of the virus in the less fortunate side of the world.
Yet it is demanded from the nation states, politicians, science, business and the public at large to organize themselves into one unit to deliver affordable, high-quality vaccines to this planet’s nearly eight billion inhabitants.
With more vaccine brands becoming available and approvals have been set by many countries for their use, the biggest challenge now is that of producing enough for the big and small pharma to supply doses to the world’s population.
The demand is great. For the workers in health care and other essential industries, there’s a need to produce more than one billion doses, or double that for the two-dose administration of the vaccine depending on the brand. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, for example, require two shots to become effective.
Worries about “vaccine nationalism” had been raised during previous discussion among experts and leaders as the current effort is not that immense as it is also fragmented.
Incentivizing vaccine production would also need spending some $170 billion to motivate countries to scale up production. And they were pitted against one another amid the fear of a limited supply during the early stages of the rollout.
Production is also an issue that needs to be addressed. Even the big pharma group could not handle the demand to produce vials in the billions in a short time to achieve quick herd immunity.
Wealthy countries like Australia, Canada and the United States have struck deals with manufacturers for enough supplies to vaccinate their populations twice or thrice over.
Brazil, China and India all have large vaccine industries to reserve jabs for their own populations.
The other countries will have to wait for months.
Also, despite ensuring the world of affordable access, the G20 (Group of Twenty) did not give new funding commitment to support that vow.
Governments also need to deal with their people’s lack of trust and confidence for the vaccine.
In a survey result released early this month, only nearly a third of 2,400 Filipino adults polled said they were willing to be vaccinated.
Twenty-one percent remain undecided if they want to be inoculated. Of those who don’t want to get the vaccine, 84 percent said they are “not sure of its safety.”
This concern is not limited to the Philippines, though.
In a November poll by the Pew Research Center, roughly 40 percent of Americans surveyed said they would not get a coronavirus vaccine if it were available to them that month.
The virus also continues to mutate. And while Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc as we chase for ways to halt its spread, Ryan late last year had warned that it is “not yet the big one.”
That’s a warning to all that there’s no room for division and greed in this fight. We should act as one race this time.