As the United Nations General Assembly meetings kicked off last week, loud calls are being made for more funds for low-income and lower-middle-income countries to access COVID-19 vaccines.
Yet while access is needed, the emphasis on funding is misguided. Many poorer countries have the means to generate finance to access vaccines, and the more significant, difficult problem to solve is stopping the multilateral system from being wholly disregarded by richer countries. This system is underpinned by an international commitment to human rights and cooperation. At the moment, the rich have the choice to opt in and opt out when they like.
The inequitable access to COVID vaccines exemplifies how a lack of accountability is wrecking multilateral institutions. The supply shortages that most lower-income countries have faced have not been primarily due to lack of financial contributions to the COVAX program. They’re primarily caused by the vaccine hoarding that many higher-income countries have participated in.