What Really Threatens Covid-19 Vaccinations for All


The battle against the most severe global pandemic in more than a century is at a critical stage.

Even more inequalities

The effort to immunize humanity is the latest front in the campaign against global inequalities. After Covid-19 exposed and heightened the planet’s vast societal imbalances, it took unprecedented business, talent and global cooperation to develop effective vaccines in record time.

As the year draws to a close, a combination of vaccines, antiviral pills and better antibody treatments offers more hope for recovery from the pandemic, at least for developed countries.

An uneven recovery

But this recovery is not equal. Developed countries – with access to vaccines and financial stimuli to invigorate their economies are ahead, while the rest of the world is lagging behind.

Fair and equitable access to vaccines remains a key issue: nationalism, intellectual property and technology transfer issues have put critical vaccines out of the reach of many.

Without swift action, it risks costing lives, stifling economies and delaying economic recovery.

The high cost of late vaccinations

By one estimate, the cumulative cost of delayed vaccination alone is estimated at $ 2.3 trillion by 2025, with developing countries bearing the brunt.

This means a decade lost in development, with serious impacts for our future generations.

Needed: More partnership

The same spirit of partnership that has helped innovate and endorse jabs that could be effective globally against Covid-19 is exactly what is needed now to deliver on that promise and vaccinate the world.

More international work

This is a monumental task, with practical challenges of scale and urgency adding to nationalist and geopolitical pressures.

Achieving this will require even greater international collaboration, urgent sharing of technology and doses, and a resolute focus on the communities most left behind.

Difficult logistics in developing countries

First, we need to understand the complex nature of the challenge. High temperatures, poor transport infrastructure and a lack of reliable access to electricity for storage mean that cold chain delivery is a far more important logistical task for developing countries than for mature economies.

In addition, getting vaccines from the depots to every person, wherever they are on the planet, requires better health systems, supply chains and infrastructure.

Many effects

There are many pieces to this puzzle, from distributing vaccines, to managing cold chain infrastructure, to hiring and training vaccinators, to communicating clearly with communities and ensuring that medical waste from vaccinations is not filling our lands and oceans, adding to our already critical climate emergency. .

Challenges abound

All of this is even more difficult in vulnerable and hard-to-reach places, fragile states and areas of conflict.

Even if the doses are in place, paid for, and shipped, effective vaccination coverage in the mountains of Afghanistan and the sprawling Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in deserts and forests with rural and nomadic populations, is a challenge even. under normal circumstances.

UNOPS knows how to manage logistics

Leading UNOPS, the United Nations infrastructure and procurement specialist, has taught me that the last mile matters a lot.

Whether it’s bringing essential medicines and food to forest dwellers in Southeast Asia or delivering face masks and disinfectants by canoe to Brazil, getting to hard-to-reach areas and making real progress requires ingenuity and resilience.

For vaccines, with delivery requirements as delicate as the Covid-19 jabs, the last mile is simply decisive.

The link between vaccinations and health systems

The good news is that this difficult exercise in mass immunization also gives us the opportunity to build more resilient health systems for a better future.

Once the global will and resources to overcome this challenge are in place, we can work together to ensure that our response to the pandemic leaves behind stronger health systems. Collaboration between various actors and sectors is essential for our response to be adequate.

Let me give you some examples of what this has meant in practice for UNOPS.

UNOPS experience

In Cambodia, with funding from the Government of Japan, UNOPS is purchasing a 32-bed modular hospital ward, as well as medical equipment and supplies.

In Mozambique, UNOPS purchases ambulances in partnership with the Ministry of Health and with funding from the Islamic Development Bank.

In Papua New Guinea, UNOPS is helping improve access to water and sanitation facilities to support Covid-19 preparedness and prevention as part of a project funded by the European Union and executed in partnership with UNICEF.

The need for a sustainable immunization infrastructure

If the infrastructure for immunization clinics is created in a sustainable manner, it can better serve communities after the pandemic and deliver results on the frontlines of Covid-19, saving lives and protecting people.

From solar water heaters to cold chain installations and medical waste incinerators, the latest sustainable solutions can benefit communities in the long run.


The pandemic has exposed not only deadly inequalities, but also key flaws in health systems, supply chains and logistics.

We owe it to our world to learn from lessons learned, tackle vaccine inequalities and lay the foundations for more inclusive, resilient and sustainable health systems globally.

In this way, a world with better global health infrastructure can be the lasting legacy of the pandemic. To get there, we need to make sure we work together on this last world mile and cross the finish line together.


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