.
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ationalistic impulses associated with a potential COVID-19 vaccine are a threat to international peace and security. Yet with news emerging of promising vaccine advancements in recent weeks, many world leaders continue to promote nationalist and protectionist rhetoric. This approach is harmful as it contributes to global inequality as wealthy states hoard a vaccine, often to the detriment of poorer states. The incoming Biden administration, as well as U.S. allies, must reject this unilateral approach to addressing the pandemic by fostering a renewed respect for multilateralism and holistic approaches toward the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to fight inequality and the destabilizing effects of the pandemic.

Renewed speculation has arisen regarding access to a potential cure to COVID-19 following an announcement on November 9 by Pfizer and BioNtech of their vaccine trial preliminary results reflecting 90 percent effectiveness, alongside Moderna’s announcement of their own vaccine results with 94 percent effectiveness on November 16. AstraZeneca also recently announced on November 23 that the results of its late-stage trials have produced a vaccine that is up to 90 percent effective.

Unfortunately, necessary questions surrounding planning, coordination, and dissemination of a vaccine have resulted in nationalistic arguments for hoarding any cure to a pandemic that has killed over 1.3 million people worldwide.

Vaccine Nationalism is a scenario in which wealthier states purchase large quantities of a vaccine before UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, ultimately hindering the ability of poorer nations to address a disease outbreak. Such a scenario reflects inequalities between wealthy and poorer states, which is amplified as states race to not only develop and purchase as many doses of a vaccine as possible, but also hoard medical resources needed alongside vaccine dissemination.

The reality of vaccine nationalism during the current pandemic means that wealthier and more developed nations, in particular those within the G20, will have the resources available to receive the vaccine well before others. This is best reflected by the Trump administration’s recent executive order requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to prioritize purchases vaccine doses before other states.

The current U.S. president is notorious for his nationalist impulses, reflected by his demands at the G20 Conference that U.S. citizens receive the first doses of any available vaccine. The administration’s Operation Warp Speed program offers a prime example of the policies within the United States designed to make this a reality. The program is a massive and less-than transparent public-private partnership (PPP) operation that aims to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in record time.

More importantly, the investments act as advance payments for massive quantities of any successful vaccines. It is a program that institutes vaccine nationalism, as it promotes a policy of purchasing as many doses of a vaccine as possible for Americans. While PPPs that promote the development of vaccines are excellent, they should not perpetuate inequalities between states that ultimately harm people in poorer countries.

The Trump Administration also refused to join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a 170-nation World Health Organization (WHO) project designed to ensure the fast and fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine upon development. Rather, rhetoric coming from the White House is clear: a vaccine developed in the United States will be for U.S. citizens.

This approach is reflective of the Trump administration’s continuous attacks on multilateralism and constitute a threat to international peace and security. To reverse the damage caused by the current administration, an incoming Biden team should consider multilateral approaches to COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution of medical resources to poorer countries.

In order to achieve this, the Biden administration should reengage with the WHO on day one. This UN agency—while flawed and deserving of a review of its handling of the outbreak in China—is the leading entity for coordinating a global health response. Its efforts in support of COVAX offer an excellent example of the type of coalition building and buy-in necessary to address the dissemination of a vaccine during a global pandemic.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine.

Upon re-engaging with the WHO, the Biden administration should also join and invest in COVAX. This pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a mechanism started by the WHO, European Commission, and France in response to the pandemic, is the largest plan currently in place to address equitable distribution of a vaccine. It does so by placing limitations on vaccine acquisition. For instance, no country may obtain enough of a vaccine to cover more than 20 percent of their population, ensuring that all countries and humanitarian organizations have access. Further, it promotes collective purchasing power that ensures poorer states obtain a vaccine.

Alongside investments into the WHO and COVAX, the United States should work for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that declares the COVID-19 pandemic a threat to global peace and security. Such a declaration would further support investments into the creation and dissemination of a vaccine and other critical medical services for poor and destabilized countries.

The 2014 Ebola crisis offers an excellent case study of the effectiveness of such a decisive move. Such language provided the teeth necessary to promote and support a coordinated response that addressed hunger, public health, and other effects that had been compounded by Ebola. This was crucial to preventing thousands of additional deaths and further destabilization in west Africa.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine. It can also expand funding opportunities to UN agencies and NGOs that support the bolstering of public health systems, which will be critical to disseminating a vaccine around the globe.

Fortunately, there is still time for the United States and other wealthy nations to change course in support of a more just response to the pandemic. If a Biden administration prioritizes addressing the pandemic in a holistic way, which is clearly the intention, then a renewed multilateral approach that promotes cooperation can be fostered that saves lives and garners a revitalized respect for U.S. leadership internationally. Until that time, vaccine nationalism will continue to not only harm the development of a vaccine but will contribute to instability around the world.

About
Alexander J. Langlois
:
Alexander Langlois is a freelance writer covering MENA diplomacy, peace, and conflict topics at the intersection of global governance. He holds an MA in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Why We Must Reject Vaccine Nationalism

December 8, 2020

N

ationalistic impulses associated with a potential COVID-19 vaccine are a threat to international peace and security. Yet with news emerging of promising vaccine advancements in recent weeks, many world leaders continue to promote nationalist and protectionist rhetoric. This approach is harmful as it contributes to global inequality as wealthy states hoard a vaccine, often to the detriment of poorer states. The incoming Biden administration, as well as U.S. allies, must reject this unilateral approach to addressing the pandemic by fostering a renewed respect for multilateralism and holistic approaches toward the distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine to fight inequality and the destabilizing effects of the pandemic.

Renewed speculation has arisen regarding access to a potential cure to COVID-19 following an announcement on November 9 by Pfizer and BioNtech of their vaccine trial preliminary results reflecting 90 percent effectiveness, alongside Moderna’s announcement of their own vaccine results with 94 percent effectiveness on November 16. AstraZeneca also recently announced on November 23 that the results of its late-stage trials have produced a vaccine that is up to 90 percent effective.

Unfortunately, necessary questions surrounding planning, coordination, and dissemination of a vaccine have resulted in nationalistic arguments for hoarding any cure to a pandemic that has killed over 1.3 million people worldwide.

Vaccine Nationalism is a scenario in which wealthier states purchase large quantities of a vaccine before UN agencies and humanitarian organizations, ultimately hindering the ability of poorer nations to address a disease outbreak. Such a scenario reflects inequalities between wealthy and poorer states, which is amplified as states race to not only develop and purchase as many doses of a vaccine as possible, but also hoard medical resources needed alongside vaccine dissemination.

The reality of vaccine nationalism during the current pandemic means that wealthier and more developed nations, in particular those within the G20, will have the resources available to receive the vaccine well before others. This is best reflected by the Trump administration’s recent executive order requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) to prioritize purchases vaccine doses before other states.

The current U.S. president is notorious for his nationalist impulses, reflected by his demands at the G20 Conference that U.S. citizens receive the first doses of any available vaccine. The administration’s Operation Warp Speed program offers a prime example of the policies within the United States designed to make this a reality. The program is a massive and less-than transparent public-private partnership (PPP) operation that aims to produce a COVID-19 vaccine in record time.

More importantly, the investments act as advance payments for massive quantities of any successful vaccines. It is a program that institutes vaccine nationalism, as it promotes a policy of purchasing as many doses of a vaccine as possible for Americans. While PPPs that promote the development of vaccines are excellent, they should not perpetuate inequalities between states that ultimately harm people in poorer countries.

The Trump Administration also refused to join the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a 170-nation World Health Organization (WHO) project designed to ensure the fast and fair distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine upon development. Rather, rhetoric coming from the White House is clear: a vaccine developed in the United States will be for U.S. citizens.

This approach is reflective of the Trump administration’s continuous attacks on multilateralism and constitute a threat to international peace and security. To reverse the damage caused by the current administration, an incoming Biden team should consider multilateral approaches to COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution of medical resources to poorer countries.

In order to achieve this, the Biden administration should reengage with the WHO on day one. This UN agency—while flawed and deserving of a review of its handling of the outbreak in China—is the leading entity for coordinating a global health response. Its efforts in support of COVAX offer an excellent example of the type of coalition building and buy-in necessary to address the dissemination of a vaccine during a global pandemic.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine.

Upon re-engaging with the WHO, the Biden administration should also join and invest in COVAX. This pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a mechanism started by the WHO, European Commission, and France in response to the pandemic, is the largest plan currently in place to address equitable distribution of a vaccine. It does so by placing limitations on vaccine acquisition. For instance, no country may obtain enough of a vaccine to cover more than 20 percent of their population, ensuring that all countries and humanitarian organizations have access. Further, it promotes collective purchasing power that ensures poorer states obtain a vaccine.

Alongside investments into the WHO and COVAX, the United States should work for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution that declares the COVID-19 pandemic a threat to global peace and security. Such a declaration would further support investments into the creation and dissemination of a vaccine and other critical medical services for poor and destabilized countries.

The 2014 Ebola crisis offers an excellent case study of the effectiveness of such a decisive move. Such language provided the teeth necessary to promote and support a coordinated response that addressed hunger, public health, and other effects that had been compounded by Ebola. This was crucial to preventing thousands of additional deaths and further destabilization in west Africa.

Understanding the implications of COVID-19 on international peace and security, a responsibility of the United Nations, will enable states to coordinate an all-encompassing COVID-19 response that ensures wealthy and poorer states gain access to a vaccine. It can also expand funding opportunities to UN agencies and NGOs that support the bolstering of public health systems, which will be critical to disseminating a vaccine around the globe.

Fortunately, there is still time for the United States and other wealthy nations to change course in support of a more just response to the pandemic. If a Biden administration prioritizes addressing the pandemic in a holistic way, which is clearly the intention, then a renewed multilateral approach that promotes cooperation can be fostered that saves lives and garners a revitalized respect for U.S. leadership internationally. Until that time, vaccine nationalism will continue to not only harm the development of a vaccine but will contribute to instability around the world.

About
Alexander J. Langlois
:
Alexander Langlois is a freelance writer covering MENA diplomacy, peace, and conflict topics at the intersection of global governance. He holds an MA in International Affairs from American University’s School of International Service.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.