In this article for The Lancet, Professor Gagandeep Kang from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation examines what the story of rotavirus vaccine development in India can tell us about the opportunities, the necessary enabling environment and the challenges of creating products to improve global health.
He highlights that although multiple successful vaccines were developed during the Covid-19 pandemic—in quantities that were inconceivable at the start of the pandemic—vaccine nationalism trumped the efforts of WHO, which established a prioritisation framework for vaccination of clinically vulnerable populations. The COVAX scheme was not successful in its aim to ensure that vaccines could be financed and distributed equitably around the world. This experience of delayed and low access to vaccines has led to calls for reparative justice and for moving away from short-term fixes of product donations to support local or regional vaccine manufacturing. Sharing intellectual property and enhancing regional capacity are now framed as moral imperatives against colonialism, and the development of the rotavirus vaccine provides lessons on how this can be achieved.