Containing Covid: Need for global vaccination effort

Even as the Covid  pandemic numbers  are declining in India, there is growing concern that new mutations of the virus – particularly the Delta variant,  with its super-spreader qualities, could soon pose a global challenge later in the year

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Universal vaccination

Even as the Covid  pandemic numbers  are declining in India, there is growing concern that new mutations of the virus – particularly the Delta variant,  with its super-spreader qualities, could soon pose a global challenge later in the year.

In this context, the announcement by US President Joe Biden  that the USA will soon acquire 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to donate to the Global COVAX alliance  to assist 92 lower-income nations is welcome.  This announcement comes on the eve of the G7 summit meeting that will open on Friday (June 11) in Cornwall, UK.  India is an invitee to the G 7 summit along with Australia, South Africa and South Korea and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be attending this meeting virtually.

Management of the Covid pandemic, now in its second year, is a major global challenge and experts are agreed that the only prudent path for the world is universal vaccination. The manner in which the virus is spreading -  UK is again reporting a surge in  new daily cases -  despite a vaccination drive for its citizens is illustrative.

It is estimated that a global vaccination drive for all – that is 7.87 billion  citizens – would cost about US $ 50  billion, according to the IMF.

This is not an insignificant amount but is to be seen against the losses that have accrued due to Covid. Human security has been impacted in a distressing manner as the Indian experience has shown and, in 2020, it is estimated that global GDP growth (at market exchange rates) has declined by 3.5 percent.  According to the IMF, a $50 bn investment in vaccination could result in a $9 trillion return by way of improved productivity and health.

There is big money involved in  the production and supply of Covid vaccination doses and some questions have been raised about vested corporate and political interests ostensibly slowing down the vaccination process.

The G7 summit in the UK ought to prioritize this issue and the final document could also encourage the global high net worth individuals to lead this effort. For now, President Biden has demonstrated empathetic leadership that is to be commended.

(The writer is Director,  Society for Policy Studies - SPS. The views are personal)

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