Towards Vaccine Equity

Date Published: 24.02.2022

The past two years have seen the fastest development and roll out of a vaccine and vaccination programme that the world has ever known.

More than half the world’s population has received two Covid-19 vaccines and some 17 million deaths are estimated to have been prevented. But the vaccine has not been distributed equally and lower income countries have suffered as a result said Daniel Thornton (PPE, 1987), Senior Adviser at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

Daniel was speaking alongside Dr Sandy Douglas (DPhil Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, 2009), who led the development of the large-scale manufacturing process for the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine and Rachel Tanner (Biological Sciences 2003), immunologist and member of the Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Trial Group. More than 80 alumni from around the world logged in to join the online discussion. 

Sandy commented that the experience learned from this pandemic would allow vaccine manufacturers and distributors to work more quickly in a similar scenario in the future. “We could have moved faster if relatively small amounts of money had been made available earlier,” he said, commenting that the regulators and ethics systems were very responsive while remaining robust.

Access to funds earlier in the pandemic would have made a huge difference to the equitable distribution of vaccines added Daniel who proposed an emergency fund for such situations in the future.

Reflecting on her work in the labs at the start of the pandemic Rachel, who was seconded from her usual research finding a vaccination for tuberculosis, began evaluating immune responses following the trial Covid-19 programme. “It was all hands on deck at the Jenner Institute” she said, with researchers going from processing a handful of volunteer results a day to between 50 and 100 a day. “The Covid response shows what can be done with more people, time and investment” she said.

Warden of Wadham College, Robert Hannigan chaired the discussion with alumni from around the world

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