Belgium in Brief: Cracking vaccine codes

Belgium in Brief: Cracking vaccine codes
Credit: Belga/CDC

After promising signs were reported yesterday that Belgium might soon be turning a corner in its long battle with the coronavirus, further confirmation of the progress of the booster vaccine rollout came in the announcement that 80% of adults in Flanders have had a booster shot.

The figure is also high in other regions although it is important to bear in mind that many who have recently recovered from a bout of the Omicron variant will choose to wait before getting the booster. Overall immunity is high although there is still reason for Belgium not to lower its guard quite yet.

Though things might be moving in the right direction in Belgium – and Europe more widely – it is vital that some regions, particularly the less wealthy, are not left behind. By nature, a pandemic is global and pays no regard for national borders. Yet the worldwide response to Covid-19 has been fractured and demarcated clearly along the lines of rich and poor.

The uneven distribution of vaccines and tests has been exacerbated by a business-focused approach that has seen calls to temporarily lift vaccine patents consistently rejected, preventing other companies from producing life-saving vaccines and meaning that less fortunate nations go to the back of the vaccine queue and depend on the goodwill of wealthier regions with doses to spare.

The absurdity of this situation was highlighted by a South African company successfully “cracking the code” for the Moderna vaccine – essentially reverse-engineering the formula in order to bypass the patent and produce a cheap, patent-free version. This is no small medical feat that should be hailed as a big step towards a fairer distribution of vaccines.

But the whole effort could have been avoided if only big pharmaceutical companies agreed to waive the intellectual property rights – if only until the pandemic has been brought under control. The whole affair speaks volumes of the many forms of inequality and profit-oriented greed that continues to threaten global health.

Cause for celebration or outrage? Let @Orlando_tbt know.

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