Topic: 2023-Pandemic Preparedness and Prevention
Delegate Name: Josi Hetherington
Committee: World Health Organization
School: Royal Oak High School
Delegate: Josi Hetherington
PANDEMIC PREPAREDNESS AND PREVENTION
The recent COVID-19 pandemic has severely highlighted the lack of protocols in place for virus outbreaks. Over four years, COVID-19 has accumulated nearly seven million deaths around the world (1). Many of these deaths can not be attributed to a lack of technology, but instead a lack of resources and health infrastructure. Due to scientific advancements, trials of vaccines were able to take place as early as 2020, and two vaccines were authorized by the FDA for emergency usage. A year later, both vaccines were authorized for public usage, Pfizer being authorized for children as young as five years old (2). And yet, a shocking number of people faced various complications when trying to receive the necessary vaccination. In 2021, “fewer than 3% of people have been vaccinated” in low-income countries (3). While high-income countries can stockpile vaccines to prepare for possible outbreaks, lower-income countries are unable to address the current needs. Even worse, this pattern has also been seen historically. Before COVID-19, between 2010-2018 an estimated 182 million children were not able to receive their first vaccination of measles. This trend is seen in many other diseases such as diphtheria as well as polio (4). The lack of vaccinations has led to countless outbreaks and will pose a continuous threat if not addressed.
This equality issue stems from the lack of resources many countries are dealing with but also falls largely due to the lack of health infrastructure. As of 2017, over half the world’s population had not been able to attain essential health care. As seen in vaccinations, this problem is prominent in low-income countries. A highlighted region with limited access is Sub-Saharan Africa. It is estimated that only 17% of mothers and children in low-income households were able to receive rudimentary health interventions. Additionally, many citizens lack adequate infrastructure, with many buildings lacking electricity, medicine, and water (5). Both of these issues have brought great strain to the country of Ethiopia. Ethiopia has struggled with poverty, and currently, 68.7% of the population faces poverty(6). As such, the high price of necessary healthcare and emergency vaccinations has been a prominent issue in increasing access to healthcare. Because of this, Ethiopia looks to address the lack of resources and infrastructure in the committee to come.
In the past, the United Nations has worked to create Universal Health coverage. In 2019, they hosted a general assembly where they implemented the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, intending to reach universal health care by 2030. In the plan, the UN addressed both equality in healthcare as well as increased global awareness on the subject. One of their main goals is to increase vaccination rates for all, which falls in line with this committee’s agenda. Additionally, they have reaffirmed efforts made by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Doha Declaration. This declaration recognizes that incentives will need to be made to work on developing more health products, which has been a beneficial step forward (7).
The 2019 conference held by the UN mainly builds on the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 3, good health and well-being. Through this SDG, the UN has been working to eliminate and target under-treated diseases, and they have even eliminated tropical diseases in 47 countries (8). However, this progress as well as the progress for equal healthcare has been effectively halted by COVID-19. This serves as a serious problem because to be prepared for any future pandemics, progress must continue. To get back on track, the UN has requested further investments to be made.
The COVID-19 pandemic served not only as a wake-up call for countries but for the UN as a whole. During 2020, the UN recognized the need for world collaboration in the fight for pandemic preparedness. They released a statement urging for open science, where all advancements in vaccinations and new news of the virus be shared across all countries to promote equality. However, the statement was received badly by many countries. In the struggle to secure vaccinations, governments prepared to put their countries first at all costs. The UN has outwardly denied the effectiveness of this method and warned that “vaccine nationalism” is only a short-term solution. Moving forward, the UN declared that “No one is secure until all of us are secure” (9).
As previously stated, the majority of Ethiopia’s population falls under the poverty line. Even more so, Ethiopia holds the second largest population in Africa, which creates a struggle in trying to reach 100% vaccination (10). However, to better the lives of Ethiopia’s citizens, the country is working towards implementing solutions for vaccine and healthcare equality. To start, Ethiopia created the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) in 1980. This program included a list of antigens to focus on vaccinations for. Due to the program, substantial strides have been made in immunization. However, Ethiopia has not yet reached its national health target of 80% vaccinated, and as of 2021 sits at 59% for diseases such as measles. Just 10 countries (Ethiopia included) make up 60% of the world’s unvaccinated children (11).
To reach the goals laid out by the national health target, Ethiopia must allocate more funding towards vaccination. In 2022, Ethiopia increased its overall budget for the fiscal year by 16.6% (including inflation growth) (12). While this has been allocated for general expenditures, Ethiopia now can increase its spending towards vaccinations. In addition to the possibility of an increase in budget, Ethiopia has worked closely with the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). GVAP, created by WHO, worked to monitor and track vaccination progress and helped to adjust vaccination strategies. Additionally, the program has helped to create sustainable financing for lower-income countries, which has helped make progress toward Ethiopia’s national health target (13).
Finally, Ethiopia has received substantial support from Gavi, the Global Vaccine Alliance. Gavi is currently in its fifth phase which is a five-year strategy oriented to increase access to vaccinations. The strategy has four goals all working to better the healthcare in underdeveloped countries. Firstly, the vaccine goal works to provide 18 vaccines according to a country’s priorities. Additionally, the Alliance hopes to continue upscaling vaccination operations by supporting countries through integrated approaches. Most importantly, the alliance is working to ensure that countries will have access to vaccines for diseases that are prone to outbreaks. The Gavi Alliance can implement this all whilst ensuring equality, one of their other goals is the equity goal. Through this, they are working to ensure that children who have not received any vaccines will not be left behind. Additionally, the Alliance is working to break barriers between genders in immunization. Ethiopia’s participation in the Alliance has made it much more possible for the country to achieve its health goals (14).
A key deterrent in overcoming both vaccine equality and early response to pandemics is global collaboration. Ensuring that research and advancements are distributed across all countries no matter if they have fewer resources is vital to halt the spread of viruses. So, to create vaccine equality, Ethiopia believes it would be beneficial to create a global virus protection program. This program must address 3 main things, and will only work if participating countries opt for transparency. Firstly, the program would create a forum accessible for government-led researchers, where updates and advancements could be shared to aid further progress. To not disrupt the scientific economic market, the forum would strictly work on initiatives chosen by the participating countries, and any profit made from discoveries would be distributed among scientists and back into the program. Additionally, the program would hold a yearly summit to publicly share advancements made. Using this program, vaccine production would accelerate at a much faster rate, and it would foster cooperation between countries.
The second focus of the program would be equal distribution of vaccines. A large issue in vaccinating efficiently was that high-income countries could stockpile vaccines, while smaller countries did not have enough resources to vaccinate their population. The program would solve this by creating a database that would track the amount of vaccines a country is holding at a time. That way, if one country has a surplus, it could go to another country in need. The country giving the vaccines would receive monetary compensation, but would also have the assurance that the program would supply them with vaccinations should an outbreak occur.
Finally, the program would focus on increasing healthcare infrastructure. In collaborating with other countries, elected representatives could survey the hospital-to-citizen ratio, and deem the regions most in need of new hospitals. Then, the resources of countries as well as NGOs could go to the specific region. This would efficiently use resources and ensure that hospitals are built where the most people can benefit from them. This program could be in partnership with previously mentioned organizations such as Gavi and Gvap. Using the knowledge from these organizations as well as the newly found knowledge from uniting countries’ efforts, Ethiopia believes that this program would be able to majorly improve the state of vaccination equality and healthcare infrastructure.
Overall, Ethiopia is hopeful that this conference will make way for substantial healthcare improvements. Our country has struggled time and time again with vaccination distribution, and recognize that this is a severe problem that needs to be addressed. Utilizing global cooperation is the key to a brighter future, and Ethiopia urges other countries to participate in transparency. Moving forward, Ethiopia is looking forward to supporting and contributing to efforts of continued scientific research, monitoring of potential outbreaks, and vaccine distribution so long as low-income countries are included in further efforts. We as a nation recognize the weight this topic holds and believe that together we can strive for improvements no one could reach on their own.
(1)”WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard.” World Health Organization, covid19.who.int/. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(2)”2020 COVID-19 and related vaccine development and research.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/history-disease-outbreaks-vaccine-timeline/covid-19. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(3) Aizenman, Nurith, host. “Why Low-Income Countries Are so Short on COVID Vaccines. Hint: It’s Not Boosters.” Infectious Disease, 10 Nov. 2021. NPR, www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/11/10/1052078529/why-low-income-countries-are-so-short-on-covid-vaccines-hint-its-not-boosters. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(4) Sidhu, Sabrina. “Over 13 million children did not receive any vaccines at all even before COVID-19 disrupted global immunization – UNICEF.” UNICEF, 24 Apr. 2020, www.unicef.org/press-releases/over-13-million-children-did-not-receive-any-vaccines-all-even-covid-19-disrupted. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(5) Yoshizu, Mamiko. “World Bank and WHO: Half the world lacks access to essential health services, 100 million still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses.” World Health Organization, 13 Dec. 2017, www.who.int/news/item/13-12-2017-world-bank-and-who-half-the-world-lacks-access-to-essential-health-services-100-million-still-pushed-into-extreme-poverty-because-of-health-expenses. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(6) “Multidimensional Poverty Index 2023 Unstacking global poverty: data for high impact action.” UNDP, hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/MPI/ETH.pdf. Accessed 18 Nov. 2023.
(7)”Universal Health Coverage.” United Nations, 23 Sept. 2019, www.un.org/pga/73/event/universal-health-coverage/#:~:text=As%20part%20of%20the%202030,and%20affordable%20essential%20medicines%20and. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(8) “Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” The United Nations, www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/health/. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(9)”Statement by UN Human Rights Experts Universal access to vaccines is essential for prevention and containment of COVID-19 around the world*.” The United Nations, 9 Nov. 2023, www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2020/11/statement-un-human-rights-experts-universal-access-vaccines-essential-prevention. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(10) Memirie, Solomon T. “Cost-effectiveness and equitable access to vaccines in Ethiopia: an overview and evidence synthesis of the published literature.” Journal of Global Health Reports, 4 Mar. 2021, www.joghr.org/article/19354-cost-effectiveness-and-equitable-access-to-vaccines-in-ethiopia-an-overview-and-evidence-synthesis-of-the-published-literature. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(11)”Immunization coverage.” World Health Organization, 18 July 2023, www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/immunization-coverage. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(12)”Ethiopia’s parliament passes budget for next fiscal year.” African News, 7 Aug. 2022, www.africanews.com/2022/07/08/ethiopias-parliament-passes-budget-for-next-fiscal-year//. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(13)”Global Vaccine Action Plan.” World Health Organization, www.who.int/teams/immunization-vaccines-and-biologicals/strategies/global-vaccine-action-plan. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.
(14) Gavi The Vaccine Alliance. www.gavi.org/our-alliance/strategy/phase-5-2021-2025/equity-goal. Accessed 19 Nov. 2023.