He is the only one in the entire lobby of the Reina Sofia hotel in Barcelona. face mask. When you extend your hand to greet him, he gives you his clenched fist. Leading by example director Seth Berkley, The Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) is one of the leaders in the struggle to find a vaccine against covid for poor countries. ends in Barcelona, invited by La Caixa Foundation in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the international field.
Are we losing your fear? covid?
Yes definitely. The world is already convinced that it has been overcome, but that is not true. Although deaths from covid have decreased due to vaccination, cases and hospitalizations are increasing in many places. But we don’t know what will happen in the future. It is very important to remain vigilant, return to normal life, but without abandoning the measures completely. It is not good to catch Covid, it should be avoided. At first, people thought I was vaccinated when I got it, but that’s not the case. You can get infected repeatedly and cases can get worse and cause more damage.
Could Covid be deadly again?
Yes People think that when one strain replaces another, the latter will be less severe. But it is not. It could be less, but it could be more. It can be like the common cold, but it can also be much more serious. The key is to protect yourself as much as possible with all vaccine doses and preventive measures. The good news is that with vaccination, the number of deaths from covid drops significantly. But we must be very careful to ensure that this continues in the future. Vaccines give you greater immunity, but cannot guarantee protection against all variants.
How many people in the third world have already received the covid vaccine?
A total of 92 countries are the poorest, home to half the world’s population. 47% of the population in these countries have already received two doses. The world average is 61%. There is no equality, but we are getting close. The problem is that in January there were 34 countries with less than 10% coverage, which was really low coverage. Today there are only 16 of them. But 14 of these 16 countries are very fragile countries. The challenge in these countries is the healthcare system, investments, political leadership, instability… We can make progress there, but it is very difficult. Therefore, we must build better systems to administer vaccines in peacetime, when there is no pandemic. Most of these countries are in Africa, but also in the Middle East and other regions.
Anyone not vaccinated?
Our program works in these 86 countries of the 92 poorest countries. There are very few countries that do not receive vaccines from us, such as North Korea and Eritrea, which receive doses from China.
Has GAVI’s platform, COVAX, reached the targets set for this year?
We achieved our goal in terms of the number of doses, but the distribution was not sufficient. We want to achieve 20% coverage in all countries, including at-risk populations, the elderly and healthcare workers. We are not there. There are countries where we still have 10% coverage.
Does the first world understand that if the third world is not safe, the first is not safe either?
People say it, but I don’t think they believe it. The change occurred when the Delta variant crashed into India and images of the corpse fires circulated the world. Same with Omicron. People understand this intellectually, but the fundamental problem is that each leader has a responsibility to his people. The question is how far this responsibility will extend. If you vaccinate even the last person at least risk in your country, or vaccinate those at high risk, you share vaccines with poor countries to protect the world’s at-risk population. It would be a correct process, but it is not done. Healthcare workers around the world should be vaccinated. But we have countries in developing countries where even healthy young people are vaccinated three or four times before healthcare professionals. It’s not morally right, but it’s not right for developed countries either, because they allow the epidemic to continue to spread because the poorest countries have no protection. We are improving but not enough.
There will be more pandemics?
There will surely be more epidemics. There are now factors that increase the rate at which organisms spread – global warming, overpopulation, pressure on the environment… Scientific journal Nature announced that 4,000 animal viruses will be transmitted to humans in the next 15 years. We will see much more than Covid and we must be prepared.
How should it be prepared?
The most important thing is to build resilient health systems in peacetime between epidemics. For example, the poorest countries should prepare so that vaccines can be supplied at the same time they buy. We need to have the capacity to produce enough vaccines and the money to get it right away. We must be prepared for what will happen. We spend a fortune preparing for war, but very little preparing for epidemics. Pandemics are a war against viruses.
He has repeatedly said that withdrawing patents is not a solution to having enough vaccines. Why? Why?
You must work through the process until a vaccine is available. Patents are unimportant. You need the technology and the method of production, not the patent itself.
There is Business Those who make a lot of money from covid vaccines. Should there be any social obligations?
I raise it if they have obligations to set good prices for the poorest countries. We work with up to 12 companies offering low prices. But not all are in the same rush to produce vaccines for the poorest countries. The imperative in a pandemic is that if you’re going to monetize vaccines, you have to have a public health perspective and provide them to poor countries.
They were accused of lack of transparency and making overly optimistic forecasts.
We deliberately did not disclose the prices to the public during the negotiation phases. We are finally publishing it.
The anti-vaccine movement is growing. Is it a problem?
Now it’s worse than ever. The epidemic has been highly politicized. These are very safe vaccines and are a terrible problem to maintain otherwise because they kill people. The country that trusts the efficacy of vaccines the most is Rwanda and the least is France. Many people in France and the USA are not vaccinated. The politicization of the epidemic is very difficult for me.