The politics of surplus production & vaccine scarcity


When a source alerted us to a potential glut in vaccine production at the end of 2021, back in January this year, it was hard to believe it. At that time the glaring inequities in the access to medical products, was already making global headlines.

That COVID-19 vaccines production could touch 12 billion doses in a few months is as hard to believe today, even though the numbers look increasingly convincing.

For all the advances in predictive analyses, streamlined logistics, we will still not be able to get vaccine doses from countries that do not need them, to those who desperately do. To be sure, there are genuine challenges that make it difficult to move around vaccine doses including preparedness to indemnity requirements to cold chains, and plain, old, bureaucratic red tape.

But even so, what needs to be fixed are not only immunization structures and programmes at country levels. The underlying political and commercial considerations that have worsened this biological event will need to be addressed more urgently with every passing day.

A number of stories converge in this piece: the picture of increased global vaccine production, in stark contrast to the anticipated reduction in the deliveries to the COVAX facility; the rush for booster doses in many countries despite the lack of scientific evidence for the same, and the scarce vaccines resources in other countries.

Domestic politics is trumping over diplomatic goals in many countries – often neither of these considerations have followed science or the epidemiology of this pandemic.

This story connects two distinct yet painfully inter-related realities: one of surplus and the other of scarcity.  

Image credit: Erik Mcclean from Pexels

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