Destructive politics holding back global pandemic response
Last week, Kenya joined 23 other countries including China, Morocco, Thailand and South Africa to launch the International Forum on Covid-19 Vaccine cooperation; a new forum aimed at galvanising international synergy to provide low resourced countries with vaccines.
In a joint declaration, the countries called for shared vaccine research and production to meet the current deficit besides pushing for progressive national entry regulations for the vaccinated based on fairness, equity, science, and none-discrimination.
The forum was convened in the backdrop of great anxiety on the side of developing countries that are currently battling new Covid-19 mutations even as global supply of vaccine has dwindled, largely due to the propensity of rich countries to hoard the commodities.
As some advanced economies think about administering the so-called booster shots, millions of vulnerable populations across the world are yet to get a first dose of the vaccines.The World Health Organization has decreed the move by affluent countries, warning that a delay in inoculating the world’s most vulnerable only risks birthing more problematic variants of the virus.
WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has rightly warned that the next course of the pandemic will depend on global leadership. However, it appears that leadership bandwidth is being consumed by other extraneous actions that will only delay the supply of vaccines to communities in most need.
When the US President Joe Biden made the bold decision to rejoin the WHO in January 2021, many people in America and beyond expressed optimism that the move would bolster the global capacity to defeat the virus.
However, the new administration is forging ahead with diversionary tactics only emblematic of the disastrous tenure of former President Donald Trump.A key concern regards the US approach to Covid-19 source tracing.
The WHO had sent its own experts to Wuhan city that first reported the virus. Working alongside their Chinese counterparts, the WHO team made conclusions and recommendations in which a laboratory leak as a source of the pandemic was largely discounted.
One of the recommendations of the team was that the search for the virus source should also extend to other countries besides China.The US has expressed dissatisfaction with the findings and proceeded to engineer new plans within the WHO to start the process a new leading to the establishment of the International Scientific Advisory Group for Origins of Novel Pathogens.
The move by the WHO to abandon the outcomes of a joint study by its own experts has alarmed the international community. So far, over 60 countries have written to the WHO Director General opposing politicisation of the Covid-19 response including on the source tracing.In an effort to circumvent the mounting international pressure, the White House has ordered US intelligence agencies to firm up the Wuhan Lab leak theory by the end of August.
The use of intelligence is against the scientific model that is verifiable, reproducible and universal. It will be hard for the global community to buy into any results of an intelligence led investigation. Politicising the process also undermines the ability of the WHO to provide leadership into finding the source of the global health crisis and possible solutions to this and future pandemics.
Instead of a sustained smear campaign against some countries, Washington should be doing more of the progressive ideas such as the recent move to donate vaccines to poor countries while sup-porting efforts by Covax Facility to deliver the essential commodities to deserving communities around the world.
A look at human history tells a different story about epidemics. Nearly every corner of the world has been in the eye of the storm from time to time. The plagues of Athens, Cyprian and Antonin decimated over 10 million lives in 15th Century Europe.
Later epochs have equally seen countries such as Canada, France, Russia, United States, Iran, India battle a range of disease outbreaks where big populations were wiped from the face of the earth.It is indeed in the interest of all countries to get a proper understanding of the pandemic genesis but such an endeavour should proceed within the purview of collaborative and inclusive scientific inquiry.
Blame game is only a show stopper.The WHO offers humanity the most appropriate platform to coordinate global efforts towards Covid-19 source tracing and other aspects of the pandemic response. To succeed, however, the agency needs to be cushioned from external interference.