Published by The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 2023
Authors: Stephen Brown (Leverhulme Visiting Professor 2021-22), Morgane Rosier
The equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines is one of the most important tests of global cooperation that the world has faced in recent decades. Collectively, global leaders failed that crucible abysmally, creating a ‘vaccine apartheid’ that divided the world according to income into countries with widespread access and those without. Why, given that leaders were fully aware of the risks and injustice of vaccine inequity, did governments of wealthy countries hoard doses, impede the expansion of vaccine manufacturing and otherwise prevent equitable access to vaccines? We argue that their decisions to act selfishly are best explained by governments’ accountability to domestic constituencies, their lack of leadership and commitment to multilateralism and their adoption of short-term perspectives, as well as their unwillingness to curb the influence of profit-oriented global pharmaceutical companies and, to a certain extent, of an additional private actor, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.