A Case Study in Vaccine Sharing Across Nations

Jongeun You

Immunizations are an essential component of public health against infectious diseases. A Northern Michigan University assistant professor co-authored a recent publication that contends the COVID-19 pandemic provides a case study for how social equity is a global issue. Dr. Jongeun You in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration examined vaccine sharing policies across nations and found a significant imbalance in the international distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income nations, leading to severe disparities in access and vaccination rates.

Dr. You at NMU and Dr. Juniper Katz at the University of Massachusetts Amherst published their research in the Journal of Social Equity and Public Administration. The authors focused on four cases: China, India, the European Union and the United States. The case selections were based on their association with vaccine production, their varying wealth levels, regime types and development statuses.

Using publicly available documents and online information, the researchers explored the unprecedentedly rapid adoption of COVID-19 vaccines, driven by technology breakthroughs, large investments and coordinated international cooperation.

“The speedy international cooperation to develop COVID-19 vaccines did not adequately translate into an equitable global distribution process,” they wrote. “Historically marginalized nations, communities, and populations were disproportionately disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic physically, economically, and educationally.”

In reaction to the public outcry over vaccine inequity, political leaders stressed international solidarity to treat everyone equally and with dignity.

“However, there is tension between the desire to be seen globally as a good-faith actor that facilitates global vaccine equity and the centrifugal forces in favor of the status quo,” wrote Drs. You and Katz. “While many COVID-19 vaccine-producing nations face international pressure to supply vaccines to other nations, they also face internal pressure to retain their domestic supply. This situation propels governments to balance globalism with protectionism in forestalling wicked transboundary problems caused by the pandemic.”

Updated statistics show that, while 70.6% of the world population was administered at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, only 32.7% of the population in low-income nations was administered at least one dose by February 29, 2024.

The authors claim that major vaccine-producing nations can better promote social equity and justice by enabling other nations to produce their own vaccines, but add that much would need to change in order to prioritize global health security over financial gains.

They also wrote that outcomes might improve with the establishment of a global response roadmap (as opposed to sporadically announcing vague commitments); the strengthening of global leadership (as opposed to focusing inward); the sharing of resources (as opposed to stockpiling them); and the extension of national distribution and delivery capabilities (as opposed to taking part in ad-hoc charity).

“Drs. You and Katz use vaccine distribution as a way to show how social equity is a global responsibility. Their article does an excellent job of taking a contemporary problem and showing its many implications,” said the journal's editor and University of Colorado Distinguished Professor Dr. Mary E. Guy.

Read the full journal article here.

Media: Dr. You can be reached at jyou@nmu.edu

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Around NMU, Research