The best way to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic is for countries to equitably share vaccines and other resources once they become available, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said in a press conference on Thursday.
Dr. Tedros said that the global economic recovery hinges on successful vaccination campaigns in every country, otherwise the world will encounter continuous waves of infections and lockdowns that will cause long-term economic malaise. As a result, the countries and regions leading on vaccine development efforts — such as the United States, China, Russia, and the European Union — must ensure that eventual doses are manufactured and distributed globally, ideally through partnerships with global multilateral organizations such as Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
"Sharing vaccines or sharing other tools actually helps the world to recover together. The economic recovery can be faster and the damage from COVID-19 could be less," Dr. Tedros said.
"Vaccine nationalism is not good, it will not help us," he said. "We must seize this moment to come together in national unity and global solidarity to control COVID-19."
The pace at which COVID-19 vaccination efforts are progressing around the world is unprecedented. Generally, vaccines are developed over several years, but the urgency and collective focus around COVID-19 has significantly accelerated the timeline.
Many private sector and country-led vaccines are in, or nearing, the clinical trial phase, meaning they’re being tested on people, after mere months of research. It’s conceivable that vaccinations could begin early next year.
In a troubling turn of events, an air of competitiveness and secrecy has enveloped some of the efforts, according to Dr. Tedros.
In the US, private manufacturers have been accused of engaging in preemptive price gouging by setting the speculative price of vaccine doses at levels far above the cost of development.
Russia, meanwhile, has been accused of stealing vaccine trial information from US labs, the New York Times reports. This brinkmanship suggests that some countries could be concerned first and foremost with vaccinating their own populations — what Dr. Tedros called "vaccine nationalism."
The WHO, along with the United Nations and other partners, has created the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to ensure that testing, treatments, and vaccines are ultimately made available to all people.
"We must seize this moment to come together in national unity and global solidarity to control COVID-19, address antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis," Dr. Tedros said in a press conference on Thursday. "For all our differences, we are one human race sharing the same planet and our security is interdependent — no country will be safe, until we’re all safe."