Contagion, a 2011 film about an influenza pandemic, ends with the allocation of the first doses of a vaccine by lottery. COVID-19 vaccines are being deployed, including by lottery in parts of the United States. Governments around the world must write their own screenplay for what could be considered the sequel to this film, spanning the timeframe from the initial delivery of the vaccine to its use in the global fight against COVID-19.
Some wealthy countries, like the UK and the US, have vaccinated a large portion of the population. These countries were able to secure contracts for the preferential supply of several vaccines and have contracts or options in place for enough doses to immunize everyone. several times.
For the rest of the world, access to the vaccine is much less certain. While the leaders of the G20 promised To ensure an equitable distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus around the world, major challenges remain. Covax, an initiative that aims to ensure that all countries have equal access to COVID-19 vaccines, has a funding gap of $ 4.3 billion (£ 3.1 billion) to purchase the vaccines needed. Some countries may have to wait until at least 2022 even before their most vulnerable are vaccinated.
The benefits of rapid global access to COVID-19 vaccines are clear. A modeling study suggested that a strategy in which the allocation of doses at the international level is proportional to the size of the population of the countries is close to the optimum to avoid deaths. Importantly, it would also reduce the risk of the emergence and spread of new variants, some of which could be resistant to our current vaccines.
The rate of vaccine diffusion also influences the speed of economic recovery. He was felt that the economic cost of vaccine nationalism – where a few countries are pushing for preferential access – could reach up to US $ 1.2 trillion per year to the global economy.
In addition, calls have been made for developed countries to make some of their vaccine doses available as a humanitarian buffer for groups such as asylum seekers. During the previous H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic, there had been a coordinated effort among developed countries to manufacture a vaccine to protect the world’s poorest, including a pledge from President Obama to donate 10% of the America’s vaccine supply – which was supported at the time by the public.
Overwhelming support for vaccine sharing
Public opinion is a key factor that could shape the willingness of governments to make stocks of COVID-19 vaccines available to other countries. That is, are the public in countries that already have vaccines willing to donate some of their doses?
Although there is a long history of opinion polls on attitudes towards foreign aid, there has been surprisingly little information on public attitudes towards vaccine aid. COVID-19. To address this issue, we undertook an international survey involving representative samples of 8,209 adults from Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, UK and USA. All of these countries have pre-purchased one or more COVID-19 vaccines through national agreements or multilateral arrangements such as pre-purchase by the European Union.
Adapt a previous question requested in the context of H1N1, we asked respondents if they are supporting their government by donating certain doses of COVID-19 vaccine to distribute to poor countries that do not have the resources to purchase their own vaccine. Those willing to donate indicated whether they preferred an amount greater than, equal to or less than 10% of the country’s stock.
Our results, recently published in Natural medicine, show a remarkable uniformity of opinion between countries, with between 48% and 56% in favor of some level of donation of vaccine stocks. Of those who supported vaccine donations, more than 70% preferred to donate at least 10% of their country’s doses.
The graph below shows the average agreement for three different arguments for prioritizing global vaccine distribution (where zero means strongly disagree and 100 means strongly agree).
How vaccines should be allocated, according to the public
The public favors the allocation according to need, followed by the inability to pay for the vaccination. There is less support for prioritizing allocation to those in countries that have developed vaccines. It would therefore appear that governments have majority support to start implementing their commitments to distribute COVID-19 vaccines around the world.
As many politicians know, public support can be fleeting and therefore they need communicate the main benefits that an effective global immunization program would bring – not only to recipients, but also to donors. More generally, the understanding and potential influence of public opinion will be important elements of any long-term strategy to fight COVID-19 and prevent future pandemics.
Prepare for the future
Beyond COVID-19, public support will be essential to build sustainable national and international public health institutions that can help prevent future pandemics.
Most of today’s international institutions, such as the World Health Organization, were created in the aftermath of World War II. A successful coordinated international effort to fight COVID-19 can provide a basis for updating and reforming these institutions to make them fit for the 21st century.
Movie sequels rarely live up to the original, but it would be hard to beat an ending in which the threat of COVID-19 is effectively wiped off the planet.