UAEM Korea Monthly Opinion Column
UAEM Korea contributed their first article for their monthly column in the Korean newspaper 'NGO News' on November 23, 2020, entitled “No One is Safe, Until Everyone is Safe”. In this article, UAEM urged South Korea to send more active support and participation in the COVAX facility. See below for a summary of the article in English, or click here to read the original article in Korean.
Pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna have claimed that their phase 3 clinical trials show up to 90% vaccine efficacy. As it seems that the development of the COVID-19 vaccine is finalized, the global community is now seeing a first glimmer of hope to an end of COVID-19. However, the phenomenon known as “vaccine nationalism” has now begun to emerge with high-income countries hoarding vaccines and their components for production. This, in turn, is leaving out middle-income and low-income countries with poor purchasing power.
To alleviate the inequality in vaccine distribution according to purchasing capacity, international organizations related to public health, including the World Health Organization (WHO), jointly launched the COVAX Facility (COVAX). However, COVAX is far below the funding target - 2 billion USD - which is required by the end of this year for stable supply. In terms of short-term economic gains and losses, there may be questions about the justification of supporting COVAX. While this may be true, in the long run, active investment is still required in COVAX as it may be an opportunity to build the infrastructure to prevent further pandemic(s).
In this situation of world crisis, the ROK needs to provide proactive domestic and international support, and participate actively. Korea has led a successful response against COVID-19, earning the title of “K-방역 (Korean Response to Disease Prevention)”. But we need to keep in mind that “No one is safe, until everyone is safe,” as WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus put it.
Korea is indeed contributing to the international efforts to combat COVID-19, such as actively helping the effort to develop and secure vaccines. However, when comparing with the neighboring Japan, it appears that other countries are trying to contribute more to the international eradication effort. Japan has donated 130 million USD to COVAX AMC, which is 13 times what Korea contributed (10 million USD).
The Republic of Korea should contribute and even more actively participate in the international effort to eradicate COVID-19. While keeping in mind the short-term and long-term benefits of COVAX, Korea should help vaccine development, and make more efforts to close the inequality gap in vaccine supply between high and middle/low-income countries.