Vaccine Distribution in Geopolitical Context

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

Vaccines are one of the most valuable tools at our disposal to combat the coronavirus pandemic, but there remain huge questions about their roll out. On November 4th 2020, before clinical trial data had been made public from vaccine candidates, this panel discussed the practical and ethical questions surrounding what many expect will be the most ambitious vaccine distribution in history.

Producing vaccines at sufficient scales will face many hurdles, not least because it requires a vast technical capacity. But other factors will also limit supply, from the cold supply chain needed for some forms of vaccine, to sufficient medical staff where they are needed. What’s more, in many countries there is a deep skepticism of the efficacy and safety of vaccines, which will be challenging to overcome.

Beyond the borders of a single country, though, there is the question of how the vaccine distribution can be organised in a fair way to those that need them most. Many countries have looked inwards, focusing on securing their own supply and – in the case of President Trump – actively departing from international collaboration through the WHO. And while there have been international efforts to secure fair vaccine distribution, some argue that intellectual properties must be waived given the unprecedented challenges. As Kate O’Brien explains, vaccinating the world equitably is “not just the right thing to do. It’s also the smart thing to do.”