Around the world people are celebrating the news of Covid-19 vaccines being authorised for mass distribution, however, this raises the issues as to affordability and accessibility.
In preparation to begin vaccination, the importation and storage of the vaccines across the Southeast Asia region will require tight supervision to ensure proper distribution and use.
Measures should be taken by local authorities to ensure that there are no opportunities for corruption or theft.
The reason is that should the vaccine fall into the wrong hands there will be a risk of it reaching unregulated reproducers, of which are often unqualified persons.
An example can be seen in the Philippines with regards to counterfeit rabies vaccine of which managed to enter legitimate supply chains and lead to entire batches needing to be quarantined.
The same situation is likely to happen with Covid-19 vaccines in the distant future due to limited legal supply.
Due to the intense requirements for storing effective Covid-19 vaccines and the regional certainty that only a handful of people will be immunised in Southeast Asia next year, a sudden influx of poorly-reproduced vaccines can have detrimental effects to public health and result in a more devastating wave of new infections.
Local authorities should implement public information campaigns that encourage residents to only be immunised in authorised medical centres, and be on high alert for illegal vendors that can pop up across communities and online platforms.
Singapore is the first Southeast Asian country to recently approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and Changi airport is being positioned as a hub for regional distribution.
Although Singapore may adhere to strict procedures, when delivering vaccines to larger and developing neighbours, Singapore should encourage cooperation through such instruments as the Asean Plan of Action in Combating Transnational Crime (2016-2025).
Sharing intelligence and resources amongst regional and national authorities in this early stage is critical to prevent the formation of illegal production and distribution channels.
There are further avenues for Covid-19 vaccine distribution and official production which require similar cooperation.
For example, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang has recently pledged Covid-19 vaccines for the Mekong countries, and Thailand’s Siam Bioscience aims to set up local manufacturing facilities for AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
In these instances, it is important to protect the Intellectual Property of the vaccine and impose strict penalties to offenders in the name of public health and safety.
This year has shown us that there is strength in unity. Combating the spread of the virus requires continuous adherence to strict procedures by the community, the people and governments of Southeast Asia have made some remarkable achievements in minimising the risk of Covid-19 infections in the region.
As such, this progress should be safeguarded and not demolished by greed and self-interest of criminal syndicates who will profit off the pandemic.
Learn more about Intellectual Property and what amounts to an infringement of Intellectual Property Rights….