A nurse prepares to vaccinate in Singapore, 19 January 2021 (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su).

Author: Jeremy Youde, University of Minnesota Duluth

In less than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 to be a pandemic, there are already 10 different vaccines approved for use in various countries around the world. But vaccines are only effective if people can get vaccinated — and progress on that front is incredibly uneven. While many states in the Global North will likely achieve widespread vaccination by late 2021, middle and low-income countries may not receive significant vaccine access until 2024.

This lack of access persists throughout much of Asia. Most Asian states have not started vaccinating their populations, largely due to limited vaccine manufacturing capabilities, logistical challenges and regulatory delays. In contrast to the strong initial responses to COVID-19 by many Asian states, the slow rollout of vaccination programs threatens to undermine early successes.

There are efforts to improve COVID-19 vaccine access throughout Asia, two of which deserve particular attention. The first is COVAX, a joint partnership between the (WHO), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance (GAVI).

Its aim is to develop, purchase and supply COVID-19 vaccines to provide more equitable access, with the goal of vaccinating 1.8 billion people (or 20 per cent of the population in its target low-income states) by the end of 2021. Under this plan, Southeast Asian states should receive 695 million vaccine doses by year’s end, covering roughly half of the region’s population.

COVAX represents a global collaboration …continue reading