Epidemiologist and director of the Global Alliance for Immunization (GAVI), Seth Berkley, warns that “there are still 16 countries in the world with less than 10% of the population vaccinated” and 14 of them are in “difficult” situations such as conflicts of war.
Berkley (USA, 1956) asserts that “The situation has improved compared to January, when there were 34 countries with less than 10% of the population vaccinated”and values that “reducing by more than half the countries with this low vaccination rate has not been easy, because it is difficult to operate in countries with such weak health systems“.
GAVI, created in 2000 by, among others, the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gatesis a global public-private partnership organization for guarantee and improve access to vaccinationespecially children in developing countries, from preventable life-threatening diseases.
At the start of the Covid pandemic, the entity promoted a campaign to raise $10 billion -an amount they got after a few months- for reach at least 20% of the population vaccinated in all countries.
Berkley, who participated in an event in Barcelona (Spain), says that currently “47% of the population of the 92 poorest countries in the world have received an average of two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, while the world average is 61%“.
Of the 92 countries, GAVI operates in 86 and since its creation has funded the vaccinating nearly 800 million children against deadly diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis B, yellow fever and, more recently, Covid, according to the Efe agency.
This difference, according to the epidemiologist, shows that “The distribution is still not fair, but measures are being taken to ensure that the distance is less and less because, in addition, soon everyone will need more doses of the vaccine against covid”.
Another challenge GAVI faced was that “many pharmaceutical companies have not prioritized access to vaccines in developing countries, but the sale of these in developed countries”denounces the director.
“When we saw that this mercantilist view prevailed, we opted for work with manufacturers to change the direction of this dynamic and find a balance between selling patents and promoting fairness in distribution,” he adds.
At the same time, most developed countries had access to the various Covid vaccines, with which they were able to immunize their population before poor countries.
“We knew political leaders would do their best to defend their citizens first, but in a global pandemic, we are only safe when everyone is safe”warns Berkley, who criticizes that “many countries have prioritized nationalism and forgotten about the rest of the world.
For now, the director recommends “mitigating the risks as much as possible in each country and vaccinate everyone with some fairness to avoid new strains that can prevent vaccines from being effective.
Low vaccination rates are particularly concentrated in Africawhere “tests are rare, so the scope of Covid-19 has focused, above all, on autopsies of patients potentially carrying the virus”, specifies the epidemiologist.
The expert also points out that the severity of the disease in African countries is less than in developed countries because, for example, “if the average age in Japan is 80 years old, the African population has an average of about 18 years old, so the serious symptoms will be less”.
This does not mean, however, that we should forget these countries, which are for the most part much less likely to be vaccinated against Covid, concludes Berkley.