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‘Predicted crisis’ Omicron mutation, warns of vaccine selfishness

“In 20 major countries, 89% of vaccines are monopolized”
When poor countries neglect low vaccination rates
New mutations that do not work against vaccines
The urgent need for ‘international cooperation’ to resolve inequality

An image depicting the effects of an Omicron mutant virus | Reuters Yonhap News

It is pointed out that the emergence of the Corona 19 mutant virus ‘Omicron’ is a predicted crisis. The more poor countries neglect the vaccine crisis, the more likely a mutated virus will emerge. Experts agreed that international cooperation to resolve vaccine inequality is urgently needed even now in order to prevent the worst mutation. Voices calling for exemption from intellectual property rights for vaccines have also increased.

Dr. Osman Dar of the Royal British Institute for International Studies (Chatham House) said in an interview with The Guardian on the 27th (local time), “It is not unexpected that a new mutation has appeared in South Africa this time. If shared, more variants will emerge.” “The new strain proves that stockpiling vaccines is actually suicidal,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Health Foundation (AHF). If poor countries’ low vaccination rates are left unattended, new mutations for which vaccines are not available may emerge, and the existing vaccine stockpile will be in vain.

Botswana and South Africa, where Omicron was first discovered, are countries that have had difficulties in securing vaccines due to the stockpiles of advanced countries. According to the international statistical site ‘Our World in Data’, as of the 25th of last month, 23.51% in South Africa and 19.58% in Botswana were completed. It is estimated that there are many other countries exposed to the risk of mutation. Earlier, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that all countries would vaccinate 40% of the population by the end of the year, but more than 80 countries are still below the target.

Although the WHO expected that vaccines from developed countries would solve the problems of vaccines in poor countries, vaccine selfishness still persists. In particular, it is analyzed that the expansion of booster shots (additional inoculation) has had an adverse effect on vaccine distribution. It was inevitable to prevent the re-spreading of the corona, but developed countries are once again overstocking vaccines under the pretext of this. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently said, “It is a shame that the daily supply of booster shots from developed countries is six times higher than the supply of vaccines from developing countries. It will appear and the fight against COVID-19 will retreat.” Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who serves as WHO ambassador, criticized “The wealthy countries of the G20 monopolized 89% of vaccines, and 71% of future vaccines are due to go to them.” did.

As mutations above microns can occur at any time, there are growing calls for urgent international cooperation to resolve vaccine inequality. It is necessary to realize that the self-interest of one’s own country, ‘Let’s start living from us’, is no longer applicable in the pandemic. “If there are many unvaccinated people around the world, mutations will continue to appear and the pandemic will be prolonged,” Seth Berkeley, chief executive of the Global Vaccine and Immunization Alliance (GAVI), said in a statement to Reuters. “Only when we can protect the entire world’s population can we prevent the emergence of mutations.” The WHO special meeting scheduled for the 29th is expected to discuss ways to ensure access by poor countries to virus testing and treatment. It is also noteworthy whether a binding agreement to resolve vaccine inequality will be reached.

There are also voices calling for support for the tangible and intangible damage suffered by poor countries. Poor countries are likely to suffer not only health damage from developed countries’ monopoly on vaccines, but also economic disadvantages due to the label of virus-risk countries and immigration restrictions. Preemptive reporting of mutations can lead to such damage. Chatham House said, “We need an international system to reduce the negative impact of (COVID-19) on trade and travel.

The demand for exemptions for vaccine intellectual property rights has also grown. Earlier, WHO and others pointed out that exempting IPR could increase vaccine production and make it easier for poor countries to secure, but pharmaceutical companies and some countries have opposed the exemption. President Joe Biden said on the 26th, right after the outbreak of Omicron, “With the advent of new mutations, it has become clear that the fight against the pandemic will not end without global vaccination.” We request a meeting for the waiver of intellectual property rights,” he said.

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