A health worker shows a vial of Covid-19 vaccine at a public health facility in Cilandak, South Jakarta, on January 14, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Indonesia Voices Concern over Global Vaccine Inequity

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

NOVEMBER 20, 2021

Jakarta. Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi once again called for Covid-19 vaccine equity, while also voicing her concern over the large gap in the vaccine coverage between rich and poor nations.

“Vaccines will be scarce, and scarce goods are often sold to the highest bidder only. This is exactly what is happening right now,” Retno told the international conference Global Town Hall 2021 held by the Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI) on Saturday.

“[About] 64.99 percent of people in high income countries have been vaccinated with at least one dose, compared to 6.48 percent in low income countries,” Retno said.

According to the minister, more than 80 percent of vaccines have gone to G20 countries, with poorer nations only receiving 0.4 percent. Everyday, the world is seeing six times more boosters than the primary doses in low income countries. 

Fifty six countries failed to meet the World Health Organization or WHO’s target of vaccinating 10 percent of their populations by September. Retno also feared that nearly 80 countries might not reach the WHO’s target of vaccination coverage by the end of 2021.

“All the while, at least 100 million doses could go unused and expire in G7 countries in 2021. The number of wasted doses could rise to 800 million by May 2022,” she said.

Many countries are depending on the Covax-sharing scheme as their only means to get vaccines. Covax has shipped over 507 million doses, but is now falling short of its target to deliver 2 billion doses this year.

"We need at least 550 million shots to meet WHO's 40 percent vaccination target in every country," Retno said.

"Global production now stands at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month. So there is actually sufficient vaccine from a supply perspective. But will they be distributed equitably this time around?" she added.

Retno then called for immediate fulfillment of all dose-sharing pledges to help countries reach the WHO target.

“Wealthier countries with an oversupply of doses or with high vaccination coverage should consider sharing their doses. Vaccine manufacturers need to start allocating more doses to Covax,” Retno said.

At the same conference, Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija —the co-chair of African Vaccine Delivery Alliance (AVDA)— called out the existing vaccine inequity and nationalism. 

As of today, only 55.5 million out of the 1.3 billion people in the African region have gotten their Covid-19 jabs. Nigeria has only vaccinated less than two percent of its population, according to Alakija.

“We have enough vaccines across the world. It is nationalism. It is greed. It is hoarding. Quite frankly, it is a disregard of human life on certain parts of continents of the world that we see are causing this,” Alakija said, while also calling for greater global solidarity.

“Vaccine nationalism needs to change and become vaccine globalism,” she said.

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