Switzerland gives vaccine queue spot to developing nations
Switzerland has become the first country in the world to give up its COVID-19 vaccine delivery slot, in favour of the global equitable vaccine access scheme, COVAX.
Switzerland to get one million vaccine doses in February 2022
The announcement, which was made on November 24, will give the scheme one million doses of the Moderna vaccine by the end of December 2021, enough to vaccinate 500.000 people. In return, Switzerland will take COVAX’s slot next February, giving the Swiss healthcare system access to one million Moderna vaccines early next year.
The news comes amidst rising concerns about the newly uncovered B.1.1.529 variant of COVID-19, now known as Omicron, and how vaccine inequity may create more of these mutations in the future. In southern Africa, where the new variant was first detected, rates of vaccination are significantly lower than in Europe and North America.
In South Africa, for example, the percentage of people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is 24,1 percent, with a similar story for neighbouring countries such as Botswana (20 percent), Namibia (11,6 percent) and Eswatini (20,5 percent). For Switzerland, the vaccination rate is comparatively higher, at around 65,7 percent, demonstrating the need for more equitable distribution of vaccines across the world.
Wealthy countries like Switzerland blamed for vaccine inequity
Even though Switzerland has slightly lower vaccination rates and a smaller population than other European countries such as France and Germany, the country has still been criticised alongside other wealthy nations for buying up huge quantities of vaccines, rather than assisting low-income countries in their mission to vaccinate.
COVAX was therefore created to ask wealthy nations to donate funds to help other countries buy vaccines. While more than 180 countries have joined the scheme, anyone can donate to the fund. Some of the largest donations have come from private organisations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and even companies like Mastercard.
It is hoped that through these donations, and through the example that Switzerland has now set by giving up their place in the delivery queue, other low-income countries can begin to receive more doses of COVID-19 vaccinations sooner.