This World Health Day, we must aim for an equitable distribution of health care products & services across the globe.

First celebrated in 1950, world health day marks the founding of the WHO (World Health Organisation), a specialized agency of the United Nations. (Unsplash)
First celebrated in 1950, world health day marks the founding of the WHO (World Health Organisation), a specialized agency of the United Nations. (Unsplash)

First celebrated in 1950, world health day marks the founding of the WHO (World Health Organisation), a specialized agency of the United Nations. Since its beginning, the WHO has facilitated and guided the world on matters pertaining to the health and wellness of people from every class, race and nationality. It has been a blessing in disguise for the people in poor, weak, developing and unstable or war-torn countries when it comes to accessibility to affordable and quality healthcare. The African continent and the South-Asian region have been the greatest recipients of the welfare schemes, medical assistance and humanitarian aid of the WHO.

However, in recent times, especially since the COVID era began, the world has realised the importance of the healthcare sector and has truly recognized its necessity for the growth and prosperity of the countries around the world.

The pandemic has exposed the loopholes:

The COVID pandemic has exposed the loopholes in the vaccine acquisition and distribution channels of WHO. Countries like the US, Russia, China, the UK, India etc. were able to develop their own COVID vaccines and distributed them effectively among their population. The rich and developed economies which were not able to develop their own vaccines bought them from the vaccine producing countries. The ones who were left with no option but WHO were the poor, small, war-torn and unstable countries, mainly located in the African continent. They were completely dependent on the COVAX program of the WHO.

When the vaccines started rolling out of the factories, it was the rich and powerful counties like the UK, the US, Canada, the EU etc. which hoarded the vaccines supplies and acquired them in numbers that were multiple times more than their population required.

Vaccine inequality and unfair global vaccination rollout. (Unsplash)
Vaccine inequality and unfair global vaccination rollout. (Unsplash)

According to the estimates of Doctors Without Borders (an international humanitarian medical NGO), the 10 high-income countries including the US, UK, Germany and France held around 870 million excess doses in 2021. 241 million vaccine doses were held just by the European Union and G7 countries.

Experts believe that due to the vaccine hoarding by the rich countries, the COVAX program of WHO, which was envisioned to provide poor countries with COVID vaccines, failed in providing timely delivery of vaccine doses. WHO also failed in providing the required quantity of doses to these countries. The African countries presently have the majority of their population unvaccinated, while on the other hand, the developed and rich countries are touching the 70 to 80% mark when it comes to the percentage of the vaccinated population.

Moreover, due to the majority of the population being unvaccinated, the people in those African countries suffer the risk of new and more dangerous COVID variants and mutants.

The supply chain needs a complete overhaul:

The present need is to redesign and restructure the global supply chain of healthcare products like vaccines and other critical drugs. The developed countries and the vaccine manufacturing powerhouses like India, the UK and the US, must push for a more decentralised & distributed sourcing and manufacturing system for vaccines. The African countries must be bought under the global vaccine supply chain. They contain around 17% of the world's population and therefore they must have a stake in the global health care and medical supply chain.

The rich countries should now come forward to provide the COVAX program with any additional or extra vaccine dose left with them. The world needs to fast track the vaccination drive in the African continent to truly defeat COVID. Until and unless the majority of the population in the poor and backward countries are not vaccinated, the world would continue to face new COVID variants and mutants.

Keywords: World Health Day, World Health Organization, Healthcare, Vaccination, COVID, Vaccine inequity, Vaccine Distribution, Supply Chain.

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