PARIS, Dec 3 — From anti-vax riots and scares over safety, to delivery delays and cut-throat competition to get vaccine doses, we look back on a year of never-ending vaccination controversies.
From the outset of the global vaccination drive, rich countries have been accused of hogging supplies in what the chief of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called “vaccine nationalism”.
“Rich countries are rolling out vaccines, while the world’s least-developed countries watch and wait,” he lamented in January.
“Every day that passes, the divide grows larger between the world’s haves and have nots,” he said.
Voices were also raised in vaccine hungry Africa, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accusing rich countries of bulk-buying and hoarding doses.
The Covax mechanism, launched by the WHO, the Gavi alliance and CEPI — the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — to give equitable access to vaccines has been hampered by a lack of money.
And rich countries ready to pay big bucks to jump the queue hasn’t helped, says Tedros.
Stand-off over supplies
In early 2021, when vaccine supplies were scarce, a tense stand-off erupted between the European Union and the United Kingdom over the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, with the bloc accusing Britain of blocking exports and threatening in turn to block deliveries of EU-made doses to the UK.
The furious EU executive even took AstraZeneca to court for delivery delays before reaching an accord in September.
The United States and India have also been accused of blocking exports of vaccines made in their factories.
Controversy over possible side effects of vaccines that were developed in record time and therefore suspicious in the eyes of some, also dogged the inoculation campaign.
Injections of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine were suspended in many countries in March after very rare cases of blood clots were reported.
Although a handful of countries, like Denmark and Norway, ditched the jab for good, most quickly resumed the injections, often limiting them to older people. But the scare meant the vaccine was snubbed in many countries.
The mRNA messenger vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have also been associated with a greater risk of myocarditis, or heart inflammation. Several countries have advised against use of Moderna’s jab for young adults.
Sometimes violent protests have sprung up in many countries in the past six months over health passes for travel or to enter bars, shops, restaurants and entertainment complexes, showing you have been vaccinated, cured or tested negative.
There has also been angry pushback against mandatory vaccination for health workers in many countries. — AFP