Equitable vaccine division amongst countries is not a reality, and many countries prepare for their third booster shots, while others do not have enough doses to offer the first shot to the great majority of the population. It appears that this “vaccine nationalism” might in fact have a serious global impact and encourage the emergence of new virus variants. A new study from Princeton University and McGill University researchers takes a closer look at this issue.
“Certain countries such as Peru and South Africa that have had severe COVID-19 outbreaks have received few vaccines, while many doses have gone to countries experiencing comparatively milder pandemic impacts, either in terms of mortality or economic dislocation,” explained co-first author Caroline Wagner, assistant professor of bioengineering at McGill University.
The main aim of the research was to look at how vaccine sharing affected the persistence of Coronavirus infections at a global level. “As expected, we have seen large decreases in case of numbers in many regions with high vaccine access, yet infections are resurging in areas with low availability. Our goal was to explore the effects of different vaccine-sharing schemes on the global persistence of COVID-19 infections — as well as the possibility for the evolution of novel variants — using mathematical models,” said co-first author Chadi Saad-Roy.
The study also discovered that a fair vaccine sharing model would lower the possibility of new virus variants. Besides the clear ethical standpoint, this research shows that “stockpiling will undermine global health as well.” Researchers explained that the impact of the vaccines would be higher if they are shared “in parallel,” not “in sequence.” “As with our earlier work, the current study strongly underlines how important rapid, equitable global vaccine distribution is,” concluded senior author Bryan Grenfell.