US, Russia and China opt out of WHO’s free vaccine program but why?

As of today, the World Health Organisation has recorded 3,14,25,029 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which includes 9,67,164 deaths, globally. America is the worst hit country by the pandemic. With WHO trying to create a vaccine with the help of all the countries, three of the most powerful countries have opted out of the process.

While almost 64 countries have contributed over $700 million so far, with 34 more countries agreeing to contribute an amount for the development of vaccine, America, Russia and China decided to opt out of the process, withdrawing their money.

The urgent requirement of the vaccine

Coronavirus originated in China in 2019, the deadly virus that spreads via physical contact between two people, spread all around the world almost immediately. By February 2020, the number of cases grew in Europe and America and then the rest of the world followed.

The virus affects different people in different ways. Most infected people tend to develop mild to moderate illness and recover without hospitalization and then there are people who succumb to death. The virus is known to test the immunity of an individual in the harshest manner and the less common symptom list continues to grow.

Most common symptoms include- fever, dry cough and tiredness and the less common symptoms include – aches and pains, sore throat, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, headache, loss of taste or smell, a rash on skin, discoloration of fingers or toes etc.

With the whole world is suffering from the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched the COVAX initiative. On September 21, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance of WHO, made an announcement regarding their progress in the development of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The initiative to create a vaccine with the assistance of the world and then equally distributing the vaccine globally, has drawn criticism from America, leading it to leave the WHO and withdraw its money. China and Russia are home countries to developing the vaccination by their own, so they are unwilling to join the WHO in the initiative as well.

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The COVAX Initiative

According to the official website of the WHO, COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the WHO, the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic. 

The COVAX is focused to bring together countries, governments, manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, private industry, the medicine community and other health organisations, and work in unity to fight the pandemic by developing a vaccine together.

According to the WHO, the COVAX is the only possible global solution to this pandemic. It firmly believes that because this united creation of the vaccine will assure people all around the world of an equitable access of the vaccine.

The COVAX is coordinated by Gavi, the vaccine alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the WHO.

The initial aim of COVAX would be to produce 2 billion doses by the end of 2021, which as accounted by the WHO, should be able to protect high risk and vulnerable people, as well as frontline healthcare workers. The WHO aims to give an equal access to all the countries, irrespective of the income levels.

The Conflict between the countries and WHO regarding the vaccine

The United States of America

According to STAT News, the Trump administration plans on opting out from the WHO by July 2021. Hence, the American government refuses to participate in the WHO-led campaign.

Donald Trump plans on going forward with the idea of independent production of the vaccine. According to the Financial Times, the Trump administration wants to fast-track a vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca by October 2020.

However, AstraZeneca issued a statement saying that it had never discussed such an option with the White House.

Trump further went on to accuse the Food and Drug Administration of US for the deliberate delay of the vaccine till the elections in November.

To this, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said, “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

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Russia

The Russian Federation allegedly has a vaccination for the COVID-19. The country is yet to release data about the vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Russia has been facing steep criticism from the scientists globally, due to the announcement of an untested coronavirus vaccine. The vaccine announced by Russia is yet to show any signs of improvements, scientific merits or evidence that it is safe for use.

Allegedly, 40,000 volunteers in Russia are set to be injected with the vaccine this week. The Russian Direct Investment Fund states that, it aims to have 30 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020.

The domestically produced vaccine is to be reserved for Russians. The Russian investment fund states that, it plans to manufacture more doses of the vaccine so that it can be sent abroad in larger proportions.

Russia has already started taking orders from other countries for the vaccine. India and Russia signed a deal recently, to supply India with 100 million doses of the vaccine.

Other countries like Brazil, Mexico and Kazakhstan have agreed to purchase the vaccination from Russia.

China

China is sought to make amends after facing backlash globally for the origination of the virus.

China’s Sinopharm recently announced that it would provide emergency doses of one of its two trial vaccines to the United Arab Emirates. China has now become the sole supplier of coronavirus vaccine to the Middle Eastern countries.

Thousands of people in China, including high-end officials, military, health workers and government-employees have received Sinopharm’s vaccines under urgent-use stipulations.

Beijing has begun the deployment of vaccines abroad to regions where China hopes to expand its influence, while the rest of China awaits the vaccine.

Hence, according to China, it does not need to participate in the WHO’s initiative.

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