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Vaccine Nationalism – Issues – Alternatives

Vaccine Nationalism – Issues - Alternatives

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2-  Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Vaccine Nationalism – Issues – Alternatives

Vaccine nationalism:

  • When a country manages to secure doses of vaccines for its own citizens or residents and prioritises its own domestic markets before they are made available in other countries it is known as ‘vaccine nationalism’.
  • This is done through pre-purchase agreements between a government and a vaccine manufacturer.
  • For example, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the European Union have spent tens of billions of dollars on deals with vaccine front runners such as Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc even before their effectiveness is proven.
  • In total, wealthy countries have already signeddeals to secure 3.7 billion doses from western drug-makers, according to a report last week.
  • To date, the United Kingdom has been the worst offender, with a recent estimate showing it has pre-ordered enough vaccine for five doses per person. The government has also announced plansto sign additional agreements with manufacturers to lock in even more supplies.
  • Canada also signed deals with two companies to secure a guaranteed 88 million doses, enough for every citizen to be vaccinated at least twice.

Vaccine nationalism is not new:

  • The present race to hoard Covid-19 vaccines harks back to a similar situation that happened in 2009 during the H1N1 flu pandemic.
  • Australia, the first country to come up with a vaccine, blocked exports while some of the wealthiest countries entered into pre-purchase agreements with several pharmaceutical companies.
  • The US alone obtained the right to buy 600,000 doses.
  • It was only when the H1N1 pandemic began to recede that developed countries offered to donate vaccine doses to poorer economies. However, it must be noted that H1N1 was a milder disease and its impact was far lesser than Covid-19, which has already infected more than 22 million worldwide and killed 777,000.


  • The major drawback of vaccine nationalism is that it puts countries with fewer resources and bargaining power at a disadvantage.
  • Thus, if countries with a large number of cases lag in obtaining the vaccine, the disease will continue to disrupt global supply chains and, as a result, economies around the world.


  • The alternative to arrest vaccine nationalism is global collaboration, which is being done through the WHO-backed COVAX Facility mechanism.
  • So far, more than 170 countries have expressed interest: about 90 low- and middle-income countries and 80 fully self-financing countries.
  • The countries who join the initiative are assured supply of vaccines whenever they become successful.
  • Moreover, the countries will get assured supplies to protect at least 20 per cent of their populations.

A COVID-19 vaccine is likely going to be the only way the world will return to any semblance of normal life. Every country needs access to a safe and effective vaccine, and the COVAX initiative currently offers the best way to achieve that.

By itself, COVAX will not be enough. We need a global commitment and framework for how governments will rapidly upscale manufacturing and distribution of a safe and effective vaccine.

Source:”Down to Earth”.


What is Vaccine nationalism? What are its drawbacks? What solutions are there to counter it?