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Time for Australia to get serious about global vaccine equity

Burnet Institute

13 October, 2021

This is an excerpt from an article written for the Australian National University’s Devpolicy Blog by Burnet Institute’s Professor Brendan Crabb AC and Professor Mike Toole AM. Read the original article here.

On Monday, the ‘End COVID for All’ coalition launched its report A Shot of Hope: Australia’s role in vaccinating the world against COVID-19.

On the same day, the New York Times reported that around 48 per cent of the world’s population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, the rate was 100 times lower in low income countries.

And, at 155 times worse, the discrepancy between doses given in high and upper-middle income countries (77 per cent one dose) vs low income countries (0.5 per cent) is even starker.

Globally, around 23 low income countries have such low rates of vaccination that, on current rates, they would not vaccinate 70 per cent of their populations until after 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had far reaching impacts. It is the biggest health, economic and societal disruption since World War II. Even countries that have had very few COVID-19 cases, such as some Pacific Island countries, have suffered substantially from the effects on tourism, trade and remittances.

Papua New Guinea is enduring a third wave that is probably more severe than at any time since the pandemic began.

The true number of cases is probably much higher than the official figures, given the low testing rates.

What are the concerns raised in the report?

  • A survey of 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries found that two-thirds believed that if we didn’t act fast enough, the virus would mutate within one year to the point where the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective.
  • It will be very hard for tourism and business to flourish between countries with and without high levels of COVID-19.
  • It is unconscionable to allow the virus to continue to spread in poor countries, resulting in many deaths, overwhelmed health systems and further economic disruption, while rich countries return to a pre-pandemic quality of life.

What does the report recommend?

  • An increase in Australian support to the global vaccine facility COVAX, in the form of an additional financial contribution of AUD$250 million and the sharing of 20 million vaccines.
  • That Australia provides AUD$50 million to address vaccine hesitancy in the region; this is urgent in Papua New Guinea where misinformation is rife and is a major impediment to vaccine uptake.

Now that the pace of vaccinations in Australia is rapidly increasing, and Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne face the prospect of soon coming out of lockdowns, it is time to look outwards and demonstrate the generosity that has been the hallmark of Australian responses to previous global crises.

A fast evolving respiratory infection cannot simply be pushed to the poorer sidelines, as has been the case for other pandemics like HIV and tuberculosis.

Ending COVID-19 everywhere is not just an ethical imperative, it is essential for a healthier, more open, and economically stronger Australia.

Read the original article here.

Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Professor Brendan Crabb AC

Director and CEO; Co-Head Malaria Research Laboratory; Chair, Victorian Chapter of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI)

Telephone

+61392822174

Email

[email protected]

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