Vaccine skepticism remains high in many countries including France and Switzerland, and the production of vaccines is slow and is beset by unexpected hiccups. Further, vaccine distribution to populations around the globe has been widely uneven. How could access to safe vaccines be democratized and made more affordable and equitable?
This urgent question kicks off the second season of the Albert Hirschman Centre on Democracy’s podcast Democracy in Question? which is moderated by AHCD Director Shalini Randeria and reflects on the crises of representative democracy. The first episode welcomes Prof. Suerie Moon, Co-director of the Global Health Centre and touches on themes such as the factors contributing to vaccine hesitancy and vaccine nationalism, as well as production challenges.
Professor Moon begins by highlighting the severity of the global situation: “we have a huge unmet need for COVID-19 vaccines, with some estimates stretching out until 2023-2024 until much of the world will be able to be vaccinated.” She explains that while high-income countries have the lion's share of the world's vaccine supply their attitudes towards vaccine exports have varied. Further, middle-income countries that have vaccine development and production capacity have also played a role in this global picture.
On vaccine hesitancy, Professor Moon notes that a noteworthy dimension is that “we don’t see that in democracies you have higher trust in government and, therefore, higher willingness to get vaccinated.” She reminds the audience that, in Geneva, the range of people eligible to be vaccinated has recently been widened because not enough people were coming forward in the 55 and older age group.
Professor Randeria then moved on to what she calls a “paradox of production capacity lying idle in many countries of the Global South, including India, at the same time as we have acute shortages of vaccines all over the world.” For Prof. Moon, the pandemic may prompt a rethink of the current pharmaceutical research and development model, which is very much predicated on the granting of monopoly intellectual-property rights.