Event Reports

"No one is safe until everyone is safe“- Effective Global Vaccination Strategies for Vaccine Access

by Barbara Völkl, Martina Kaiser

An Exchange of Experiences between South Korea and Germany

The COVID-19 pandemic shows once again how irrelevant national borders are in a globalized world and how detrimental an initially local issue can be for the entire globe. Although geographically separated, South Korea and Germany aim at fostering cooperation and an active dialogue during the pandemic to assess best practices and plan further steps to this point. In this regard, Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung together with the Embassy of the Republic of Korea and the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) organized the expert dialogue "COVID-19 and Public Governance: Effective Global Vaccination Strategies for Vaccine Access" on April 29th 2021.

In her opening remarks, Martina Kaiser, KAS Policy Advisor for Global Health, emphasized timing and relevance of the event, which coincides with WHO's World Immunization Week. The critical question at this point is no longer how the world develops vaccine in record time, but how we distribute respective vaccines globally and equitably. What are the critical success factors for overcoming the pandemic, and what is the role of international cooperation in vaccine procurement and supply?

Public Governance to Assure Global Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

"No one is safe until everyone is safe" stated the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Germany, Her Excellency Dr. Cho Hyun-Ock. Without effective global herd immunity, one mutation could destroy all the progress made so far. It is not enough to consider the developed countries, where on average one in four received the first vaccination, but it is necessary to take into account the less developed countries, where the vaccination rate is one in five hundred. Korea is willing to take responsibility among others in research and production processes, Ambassador Dr. Cho emphasized, as this pandemic can only be resolved if the world restores the spirit of international cooperation.

George Bickerstaff, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the International Vaccine Institute, highlighted the importance of international organizations in the development and testing of new vaccines. International organizations do not only provide support in clinical trials or in enforcing international standards, they are also a reliable partner in capacity building and distribution of vaccines in developing countries. After all, multilateral dialogue and the participation of all partners, Mr. Bickerstaff and Her Excellency Dr. Cho Hyun Ock agreed, is of the highest importance.

In his keynote speech, Dr. Jerome Kim, Director General of the International Vaccine Institute, vividly illustrated the long road to overcoming the pandemic. In a four-step model regarding the vaccines “Prove it, Make it, Use it, Value it”, the first two steps have begun with the realization of ten effective vaccines and their production. However, the current production capacities are too limited and the global distribution of vaccines is still unbalanced. A first important step is the Covax initiative, an alliance of 189 countries for an equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, to which Germany is one of the largest contributors. This initiative aims to guarantee each member country 20 percent of its demand for vaccines by the end of 2021.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Ilona Kickbusch, Founding Director and Chair of the Global Health Centre at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, highlighted the strong geopolitical component of the ongoing crisis and pointed out two types of vaccine diplomacy. While the first one relies on global solidarity and cooperation in multilateral organizations, the second one fosters own geopolitical advantage and alliance building. With herd immunity in developing countries not likely to be expected until early 2023, leeway for politically motivated aid efforts is provided. In addition, the production volume remains far too low with currently about 1/3 of the required volume with the situation in the pharmacy of the world, India, being highly alarming. States such as China or Russia are heating up the battle of political systems by supplying strategic partners and building new alliances following the maxim: States will for long remember who helped them. Finally, Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Ilona Kickbusch concluded: Particularly in times of crises, democracies have to show solidarity regardless of differences and geopolitical tensions.

Challenges and Best Practices in Search of Effective Vaccination Strategies

In the following panel discussion, Dr. Hee-Chang Jang, Korean National Institute of Infectious Diseases, and Stella Danek, German Federal Ministry of Health, agreed that the primary goal of the pandemic response is to reduce the number of people dying and the number of people infected. To do so, Dr. Jang highlighted that South Korea has succeeded through the use of testing, tracing and treating method, but that the number of vaccinations and the effectiveness of the vaccination campaign still hold potential. In contrast, Stella Danek particularly highlighted the German progress in the vaccination campaign and emphasized the close cooperation between authorities, science and industry.

Dr. Andrea Haselbeck, Senior Research Scientist at the International Vaccine Institute, added that debates in developed countries do not match those in developing countries. It is essential to keep in mind that decisions and discussions in developed countries have consequences for the debate in developing countries, and at times accomplishments are carelessly put at risk. Dr. Jerome Kim added that supplies of vaccines, a sound data base and systematic prevention are the keys for vaccination success in less economically developed countries.

On the question of synergies and learning effects, all experts agreed that it is necessary to evaluate one's own behaviour as well as the behaviour of other countries in order to lay the foundations for future responses to crises. Critical aspects hereby are the effective design of the vaccination campaign, the expansion of production capacities, optimized quarantine rules, more flexibility and agility, and forward-looking caution.


Barbara Völkl

Event Reports
May 31, 2021
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