Failing to ensure wider access to COVID-19 vaccines could undermine the global economic and trade recovery, a report of the World Trade Organization (WTO) warned on Thursday.
The Director-General's mid-year report on trade-related developments presented to members on Thursday calls on WTO member countries to ensure that markets remain open and predictable.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said this report clearly suggests that trade policy restraint by member countries has helped limit harm to the world economy.
However, some pandemic-related trade restrictions do remain in place and the challenge is to ensure that they are indeed transparent and temporary, she said.
"The report calls on WTO members to ensure that markets remain open and predictable, and warns that failing to ensure wider access to COVID-19 vaccines could undermine the global economic and trade recovery," WTO said in a statement.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The report noted that since the outbreak of the pandemic, 384 COVID-19-related trade measures in the area of goods have been implemented by members, of which 248 were of a trade-facilitating nature and 136 could be considered trade restrictive.WTO is a Geneva-based 164-member multi-lateral body which frames global trade rules and adjudicates trade disputes among member nations. India has been a member since 1995.