Urgent action needed to cope with pandemic

Tuesday, 2021-04-27 17:23:56
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A patient wearing an oxygen mask is wheeled inside a COVID-19 hospital for treatment, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad, India, April 26, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – The serious development of the COVID-19 pandemic in India has put the South Asian nation's health system in danger of collapse, worrying the world about pandemic response. Reducing medical and vaccine inequality is one of the most pressing actions needed to prevent further catastrophes from occurring.

The desperate situation of COVID-19 patients in the context of a lack of oxygen, medical equipment and hospital beds has exacerbated the pain in India's pandemic fight, especially amongst poor people. Despite being the world's leading producer of the COVID-19 vaccine, India is witnessing an unprecedented tragedy, as the number of people infected with COVID-19 increasing rapidly every day, at 350,000 cases for several days in a row.

One of the reasons is subjectivity, after the South Asian nation hastily announced its achievements in controlling the epidemic in February and people neglected to follow preventive epidemic measures while the emergence of variations of the virus has made it difficult for their COVID-19 vaccine programme.

Not only India, many countries such as France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada, and Brazil continuously issued warnings about the danger of overloading the health system. The emergence of new variants has accelerated the spread of COVID-19, putting heavy pressure on the medical system. In the first three months of 2021, more than 94% of 135 countries and territories around the world recorded disruptions to medical services, including emergency interventions to save lives.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on governments to improve the health care capacity of all people in the context of the pandemic having increased health inequality and social issues among countries. The pandemic has also affected the lives of people around the world, but the poor and disadvantaged have suffered the most. According to the WHO, it is estimated that in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put an additional 119 to 124 million people into extreme poverty.

Despite efforts to launch immunisation campaigns, the COVID-19 outbreak continues to break out in almost all regions around the world. Experts say the current vaccination drive is not enough to beat the pandemic. Although eight kinds of COVID-19 vaccines have been deployed worldwide, the pandemic has not cooled down. One of the reasons is the uneven distribution of vaccines globally, as well as the emergence of new variants.

The WHO has expressed concern about inequality in access to COVID-19 vaccine, as so far the vaccine has not reached poor countries. Statistics show that nearly 900 million vaccine doses have been dispensed globally, but more than 81% of them are in high-income or middle-income countries, while the proportion in low-income countries is only 0.3%. In fact, the world will not be safe until mid-2022, as variants that are more contagious and cause more severe illnesses are increasing.

The COVAX vaccine distribution mechanism has been highly lauded, helping poor countries access vaccine supplies. However, this vaccine aid system is facing difficulties due to a lack of supply and the impact of vaccine stockpiling activities. United Nations Secretary-General A. Guterres has criticised rich countries for stockpiling vaccines, urging them to share, while the World Bank has recently pledged to fund US$2 billion to provide vaccines to about 40 developing countries by the end of April.

In addition to seeing vaccination as the “key” to disease control, the world clearly needs to strengthen its responsive capacity in many ways, with a focus on ensuring equity in access to vaccines. Global sharing and coordination in the prevention and control of COVID-19 is essential at this moment, a decisive juncture in the fight against the pandemic.