Asian stocks increase as positive vaccine results announced . . .
Asian stocks rose on Tuesday after Moderna, a U.S. biotech company focusing on developing a COVID-19 vaccine, announced that preliminary results show its vaccine is 94.5% effective. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced on Wednesday that its vaccine has proven to be 95% effective. Both announcements have spurred optimism about a potential end to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic turmoil it has caused. On Tuesday morning, leading stock exchanges in Singapore and Indonesia rose about 1 per cent, and benchmark indexes in Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Hong Kong all edged higher.
Vaccines for some, but not for all . . .
Despite the positive vaccine results, some are skeptical about vaccine distribution and access. Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed concerns that larger countries might have advantages in procuring vaccine doses. Further, a country’s ability to purchase would likely play a significant role in determining access. The Duke Global Health Innovation Center database that tracks COVID-19 vaccine pre-purchases found that over 50 per cent of the 6.4 billion pre-purchased doses have been claimed by high-income countries. As of November 11, Canada had purchased enough vaccine doses to vaccinate 527% of its population, Australia’s vaccine-population ratio was 266%, and Japan’s was 115%. Comparatively, Indonesia pre-purchased enough to vaccinate 39% of its population, while Bangladesh has not pre-purchased sufficient quantities to vaccinate even 1% of its population.
Consequences of unequal vaccine access . . .
Unequal vaccine access presents barriers to the eradication of the disease. For example, even though there is a safe and effective measles vaccine, 140,000 people died from the measles in 2018, overwhelmingly in developing countries in Asia and Africa. For the COVID-19 pandemic to end, we need to have safe and effective vaccines, but we also need to have broad and meaningful access to those vaccines. Vaccine access must not be limited to citizens of rich countries.