Pay your jab forward: Australian scientists urge global vaccine equity via a $10 donation

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Some of the nation’s top infectious diseases scientists have made an urgent plea for Australians to consider funding a coronavirus vaccine for a person in a developing country, by donating $10 after receiving their own jab.

Their calls come amid revelations overnight that a string of nations across Africa and Asia have rapidly run out of COVID-19 vaccines or are on the brink of doing so, only months after receiving humanitarian aid shipments from Covax, a global program aimed at equitably distributing lifesaving shot to poorer nations.

Some of the nation’s top infectious diseases scientists have made an urgent plea for Australians to consider funding a vaccine for person in a coronavirus stricken developing countryCredit:

They warn that without global immunity, variants of the disease will continue to leak into Australia.

The push is being led by Australia’s Immunisation Coalition and University of Sydney vaccine and infectious diseases pediatrician Professor Robert Booy, who said highly infectious variants of coronavirus, such as Delta, were emerging in developing countries and were spreading rapidly due to a lack of vaccines and healthcare systems collapsing.

“It is called being a good global citizen and paying it forward,” the chair of Australia’s Immunisation Coalition scientific advisory committee, said.

“It is enlightened self-interest. We help them because they deserve to be helped, but it just happens to give us an advantage as well because none of us are safe from this virus until our global neighbours are.”

Professor Booy is imploring Australians to donate $10 to UNICEF after they have been immunised against the virus in Australia, which is enough to provide a vaccine for a person in a poorer country through the global Covax program.

The aim of Covax is to distribute enough vaccines over the next six months to inoculate 3 percent of the population of 145 countries, with doses prioritised for frontline health workers and some of the most vulnerable including the elderly.

But the program has been hamstrung by vaccine shortages, fuelled partly by manufacturing delays, wealthier countries purchasing the bulk of the doses and Indian supply disruptions.

The World Health Organisation revealed late Tuesday night that more than half of poorer countries receiving doses via the Covax vaccine-sharing program do not have enough supplies to continue vaccinating people as cases and deaths soar in Africa due to a third wave of infections.

Professor Booy said many people in high-income countries such as Australia could now access free COVID-19 vaccinations, while those in lower-income countries were yet to receive a single dose.

He said high-income countries had reserved more than half of the worlds COVID-19 vaccine doses,
despite representing only 14 percent of the world’s population, while there has been less than five percent vaccine uptake in low-income countries, which represents approximately two-thirds of the world’s population.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation, voiced outrage that wealthy countries had commenced immunising children against the virus instead of donating millions of doses to countries being ravaged by the disease who had barely begun vaccinating health workers and their most vulnerable.

Professor Andrew Pollard, who ran clinical trials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, also deemed it “morally wrong” to prioritise children when COVID-stricken countries did not have enough vaccine.

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