Tough task ahead - GulfToday

Tough task ahead


The Pfizer vaccine is priced at USD 40 per person, for two doses.

Developing countries need to urgently audit their cold storage, transport capabilities and infrastructure, to prepare for storing and distributing the vaccines to their people. When COVID-19 hit the world smack in the face in the first quarter of 2020, we were short of hospitals, beds, ventilators, oxygen, etc. Since then, many countries have augmented the production of these items.

We may get vaccines from three to five companies between December 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. Most of the vaccines will have prescribed storage temperatures, thawing protocols, expiry dates, etc. For instance, the Pfizer vaccine involves deep-freeze airport warehouses, refrigerated transport vehicles and cold storage facilities across the towns and villages. At the vaccination centres, the vaccine shots have to be thawed from minus 70 degree Celsius to 2 to 8 degrees Celsius in refrigerators. Then, they have to be injected within five days. A month later, a second dose has to be administered.

The European Union has finalised a deal to buy 300 million doses, for its 450 million population. Germany and Belgium will be among the first receivers of the vaccine, by end 2020. The US, UK, Japan and Canada have also signed deals for the vaccine with BioNTech-Pfizer for the vaccine. The US has placed an initial order for 100 million doses at a price of USD 1.95 billion and can acquire up to 500 million additional doses. Even smaller countries like Peru, Ecuador and Cost Rica have signed agreements.

The Pfizer vaccine is priced at USD 40 per person, for two doses. Developing countries may not be able to afford this price, for their populations. India has budgeted USD 7 billion for the vaccine. At the current price of the Pfizer vaccine, this will inoculate only 179 million of India’s 1.3 billion people, i.e. 13 per cent. So, the efforts to find more cost-effective vaccines must continue on a war footing. Developing nations should focus urgently, on getting their cold chain of warehouses and distribution vans organised.

Rajendra Aneja
Mumbai, India

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