5 Ways to Ensure Equitable COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

Many companies have claimed successful clinical trials for the Coronavirus Vaccine. While the governments across the world are trying hard to get early access, equitable distribution to one and all should be the priority.

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has had the whole world grappling and drastically transforming life as we know it. Worldwide, the healthcare, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology industrieshave been working day and night for vaccine development and immediate availability. Currently, multiple research teams and clinical firms have come up with many versions of the COVID-19 vaccines. Many of these are in the final leg of the testing and approval process. Thanks to the relentless efforts of the medical and research community, we will soon have the COVID-19 vaccination. But this is only the first hurdle crossed.

To ensure that the resources needed to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine fairly must be achieved soon, starting with careful planning, preparation, and distribution as soon as the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Worldwide cooperation is also particularly important to ensure that sufficient vaccine is available for equitable use in all countries. Only then will we be able to exploit the full potential of this vaccine to prevent further disease deaths.

What Can We Learn From Past Pandemics

Apart from being a testament for the medical technology evolution, the pandemics of the past (Polio, Small Pox, or Spanish Flu) can also teach us a thing or two in dealing with such crisis. A look at the history of vaccines and its distribution reveals accessibility as the real issue, especially when it needs to reach the majority of the planet's population.

In this article, David Heymann, Executive Director for Communicable Diseases at the World Health Organization states, "In 1988, polio was reported in 125 countries that lacked adequate access to the polio vaccine; by 2005, only four countries had not yet interrupted transmission of the virus.”

TheCOVID-19Vaccine Distribution Roadblocks

Effective distribution is the need of the hour to win this pandemic on a global level. Stock-piling, mass manufacturing, global scale distribution are some of the major roadblocks in front of the governing and health bodies across the world.

Heymann in the NCBI article further states, “In the event of an influenza pandemic, however, access to the vaccine will be extremely limited, particularly in the developing world. The global influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity is limited to the approximately 300 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine, while the global population is 6.6 billion. These doses are produced and distributed each year, mainly within industrialized countries, in formulations that must track slight changes in this constantly mutating virus. This shortfall—the difference between a capacity of 300 million doses and a population of 6.6 billion—presents a challenge that can only be met through global preparation and action.”

How to address these roadblocks by developing an effective strategy to achieve equitable distribution?

Public and Private Partnerships: As pointed out by Heymann, there’s a huge gap between the vaccine manufacturing capacity and the population that needs it. To address this, independent manufacturers from every part of the world need to come together to create partnerships and strategically expand the manufacturing capacities for mass production. The health and governing bodies also need to offer regulatory and financial aids to assist these manufacturers. Recently, The WHO held a donor conference on May 4, at which a large group of world leaders pledged contributions totalling more than $1.5 billion (1.2 billion euros) to support the vaccine.

Taking Support from the Community: Local communities including, healthcare workers, medical students, and volunteers will be needed to set-up vaccine distribution camps in their locality to ensure that vaccine reaches everyone from every corner of the world.

Strict Global Laws Against Stockpiling: Global governing bodies like The WHO and UN need to come forward and start making strict regulatory laws against unnecessary stockpiling of the vaccine by a small number of financially strong countries. This is to ensure that the vaccine is available where it is most needed and that disadvantaged communities across the world receive their fair share.

Avoid Monetization and Competition: Many leading pharmaceutical companies claim that they are not competing with each other, but are "at this stage" with Coronavirus and say they are working as quickly as possible to develop, expand and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine. This attitude is not only ethical but also highly crucial in saving humanity.

Technology, a facilitator: Last, but not the least, technological advancements such as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, etc., can prove to be useful in effective vaccine distribution and management. For example, with smart analytical capabilities, AI tools can generate statistical data for millions of people and analyse the containment zone for immediate distribution. These tools can also be deployed to get location wise data to enable effective vaccine management and distribution.

When we stop to think about it, we are shocked by the enormous undertaking that is underway around the world and by what lies ahead to develop the COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it to billions of people. We have a responsibility to distribute this vaccine to the world as quickly as possible so that we do not make any crucial mistakes. If we work together and unite in a global response, we can successfully stop this pandemic.