Vaccinating the world

27th January 2021

News, Alumni news

“It has been forty long days and nights since the first person was immunised against COVID-19 and we have not yet provided any vaccines to the developing world – we have a big task ahead.”

Play Zoom participants

So said Daniel Thornton (PPE, 1987), a senior adviser at Gavi, talking to Wadham alumni at a discussion Can we find a global solution to the pandemic?

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, is a not-for-profit organisation set up to bring vaccinations to 73 countries in the global south. Gavi helps immunise almost half the world’s children each year against deadly and debilitating diseases, and has saved 13 million lives since it was founded.

In the face of this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Gavi is co-leading global efforts on equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and as part of COVAX is identifying and rapidly accelerating development, production and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines so that anyone that needs them, gets them.

“Driven by the desire to provide vaccines equally, we are aiming to get two billion doses by the end of 2021, which will be enough to provide coverage of 20% of the population of all the countries that are members,” said Daniel

“I think this is the right approach while supplies are constrained. We're not driven by epidemiology, but by the desire to provide vaccines equally,” he added.

When the vaccines are produced, the wealthy and middle-income countries take responsibility for introducing the vaccines to their populations while Gavi supports their introduction in developing countries, working with partners like WHO and UNICEF to help roll out the vaccination programme.

Creating efficient supply chains for the vaccine has been a very slow and difficult process in both rich and poor countries, said Daniel, particularly with the added demands of a ‘cold chain’ – the need to keep vaccines at low temperatures until delivery.

Looking to the future he commented that it was impossible to know at this stage whether COVID-19 was a disease that could be eradicated like smallpox, suppressed, like measles, or, “whether this disease is going to carry on mutating and we're going to struggle to keep up in the arms race of vaccines versus the virus.”

Concluding his presentation Daniel commented: “We need to look for things that come out of the pandemic that we can benefit from and build more secure foundations for future global health.”

In answer to questions, Daniel said that money was key to getting to the front of the queue for vaccines and that Gavi was asking wealthy countries to donate to support the rest of the world. He also addressed questions on how variants of the disease might affect future vaccines, vaccine passports, criminal activity in supply chains, and the length of the gap between first and second jabs.

He finished by saying that the fact that the virus does produce an immune response is one of the greatest opportunities for a vaccine.

More than 160 alumni from around the world joined this Zoom event with the Warden, Ken Macdonald QC in conversation with Daniel. 

Watch the discussion on catch up here.

  • Daniel Thornton and Ken Macdonald QC with Wadham Alumni

    Daniel Thornton and Warden, Ken Macdonald QC with Wadham alumni

  • Event flyer

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