Published in El Pais, 20 February 2021.
Many countries are receiving the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. The big challenge lies in equitable distribution. Equitable distribution consists of a “fair” distribution, giving those who are most defied perhaps a little more, it is not necessarily an “equal” distribution.
In the case of vaccines, the World Health Organization is urging an equitable distribution of vaccines, prioritizing the population most at risk of contagion. Risky workers include frontline or COVID-19 health workers, and people over the age of 60. Many countries in Latin America are airtight with the strategies used to vaccinate but denounces are already coming to light that people who had no priority are being vaccinated.
Another big challenge is that the vaccine is issued in quality conditions to all people. This is also part of equity. Many people living in small or rural cities are at risk of useless vaccinations. The temperatures needed to keep the vaccine in good quality are between -30 and -70 degrees Celsius. Many developing countries do not have suitable cooled transport or cooling chambers to guarantee this. In Bolivia, Health Services are enabling refrigerators for maintenance, but they do not guarantee temperatures below -15 degrees, and regular food transport trucks have been enabled that only have temperatures up to -18 degrees, which is not enough. Vaccines that are at temperatures greater than -30 can only last up to five days according to some studies and then be useless. Luckily, today it was announced that Pfizer can withstand two weeks at temperatures between -15 and -25 and that with just one dose it can be 85% effective. But how long will it take to vaccinate? Some countries have transparently developed their strategies and have begun working in collaboration with companies and universities to accelerate vaccination and not let vaccines be ruined. This will ensure that remote populations have a good quality vaccine. Only in this way can an equitable distribution be ensured for the population as more doses arrive.
COVID-19 has shown that centralization of government, without consultation, without transparency and without collaboration, is not efficient in truly combating the pandemic.