As we start to see the light at the end of the pandemic’s dark tunnel, inequities in the distribution of vaccines across countries are coming under intense scrutiny. Unequal vaccine distribution is not necessarily unfair—after all, some population groups are more vulnerable than others. Yet relative to sensible metrics of need, the current inequality is excessive. Efforts to boost and balance deployment have galvanized under the clarion call for #VaccinEquity, but progress has been slow and marred by bottlenecks.

In addition to the various practical constraints—including financing, logistics, manufacturing, and patent rights—three misconceptions stand in the way: the view that COVID-19 is mainly a “rich-country disease”; a focus on herd immunity that detracts from the pressing goal of protecting the global priority group; and a belief that fixing vaccine hoarding in rich countries will fix vaccine equity on its own.

It is worth remembering the world’s performance against the Millennium Development Goals. We met the goal of reducing income poverty five years ahead of time. But the progress on all other goals were much more incomplete and heterogeneous. These dimensions represented the persistent development bottlenecks that left countries behind and motivated the broader 2030 agenda

For at least three reasons, the call for #VaccinEquity needs to be connected to this broader development agenda. First, because fixing vaccine hoarding in rich countries and distributing them more equitably across countries will not be sufficient to fix vaccine inequity on its own. Second, the vaccine equity movement must call attention to and extend greater solidarity with other inequities in global health and development. Third, since pandemics are likely to occur again, we must seize the opportunity to break the cycle of panic and neglect and scale up pandemic preparedness.

Read the full article about vaccine equity by Philip Schellekens at Brookings.