International Chamber of Commerce calls for equitable access to vaccines
MANILA – The prevailing challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic can still be resolved should there be equitable access to vaccines not only in the Philippines and Southeast Asia but in India and areas currently overwhelmed in Africa and Latin America.
This was how International Chamber of Commerce Secretary General John W.H. Denton looked at possible ways to recover from the serious impact on lives, livelihoods and business opportunities.
Speaking at the Vaccine Summit organized by the Philippines’ International Chamber of Commerce under former Special Trade Envoy to China Dr. Francis Chua, Mr. Denton said he has been working with World Health Organization (WHO) and World Trade Organization (WTO). He added he has with WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom and WTO Director General Ngozi Okankjo Iweala hoping for a more equitable vaccine distribution worldwide.
“The innovation of the private sector has led to scientific advances in record time,” he added. He explained one should not forget the speed with which the vaccines have been delivered. It is expected 10 billion doses will be manufactured this year and has accelerated the COVAX facility to vaccinate at least 20% of the world’s population by year-end.
He said there is a big difference between theory and practice despite progress of having vaccines as there exists vaccine nationalism as countries queue there are countries hoarding supplies to vaccinate their won populations ahead of others.
“It is an economically suicidal act as it’s an active economic self-harm by those countries,” Denton explained. He added the impact of vaccine nationalism to the global economy would be almost US$9 trillion this year and its impact would be borne by developed countries.
“Governments may have created COVAX but they have not fully put their money behind this initiative and we’re still short of US$20 billion and I do call on the Filipino business community to stand up and put pressure wherever you can on governments, at the local level or globally, to fully fund the facility,” Danton further said.
Part of the challenges faced by the international community is the supply chain itself as manufactures are struggling to get their materials, active ingredients, enzymes, lipids and even glass vials required to produce vaccines. He said there are trade barriers that have complicated distribution that unnecessarily broke down relations of trust between nations and prevented poor countries from vaccinating “even to a minor degree.”
“ICC has called for the establishment of a global clearing house to actually identify and address bottlenecks in the supply chain both degrading and distributing them and later establish a global matchmaking service, to link business with latent capacity and at least 200 generic manufacturers worldwide and produce their own medicines against COVID-19,” he explained.
He said it may also be beneficial to abolish tariffs on pharmaceuticals, medical goods as envisioned by the ICC.(Melo M.
ICC Secretary-General John H. W. Denton. (ICC website photo)