The inequality of vaccine distribution
8th February 2021
The acquisition and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is commonly referred to as a ‘race’. A race implies that there are winners, and there are losers. The winners in this race receive a life free from Covid-19 and all of the worries that accompany it. The losers get a dire and unpromising future where the impacts caused by Covid-19 are endless. The difference between the winners and the losers is simple: wealth. The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has served to highlight the gluttonous and self-serving nature inherent in all human beings, whether we like to admit it or not.
Oxfam recently announced that the world’s wealthier nations have bought-up enough vaccines to allow them to vaccinate their entire population nearly three times over by the end of 2021. On the higher end of the scale, Canada has bought enough that it is able to vaccinate each member of its population five times over. In a stark contrast, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong has warned that Africa might not see vaccines until after the second quarter of 2021. One can only imagine the uproar if a Western affluent country had to sit back and watch many of those around them be declared free of Covid-19, while it remined helpless due to a lack of funds. Yet, we expect the poorer nations to simply accept this as fact. We have resorted to putting a price on health and survival without batting an eyelid. As articulated by Nkengasong, this truly is a moral issue.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time we have acted with such egotism and greed. For the population of wealthier countries, the worry of catching polio is non-existent, due to the vaccine which was released in the 1950’s and 60’s. However, it was only in August of 2020 when Africa could officially declare itself free of wild polio. Even worse, residents in Afghanistan and Pakistan still fear catching polio as it remains a prevalent disease in these parts. People may be shocked at the how the Covid-19 vaccine rollout is being handled, but in truth, this is history repeating itself. Different this time however is the increase in movement between countries, and the possibility of new variants which will not stop spreading until the disease is fully eradicated. As Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam GB, illustrated, ‘The longer the virus is able to travel the world, the greater the risk of mutations and the greater the risk that the vaccines we do have will become ineffective.’ This provides a motive for wealthier nations to aid the vaccine rollout all over the world, albeit for self-serving reasons once again. This would be an entirely altruistic act, and it certainly does not promote equality in the vaccine rollout, but it does provide hope that this situation will be different from the likes of polio and other such diseases.
“The rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has served to highlight the gluttonous and self-serving nature inherent in all human beings, whether we like to admit it or not.”
Despite the slight tone of disdain and pessimism peppered throughout this article so far, certain initiatives have been founded which highlight some of mankind’s more redeeming qualities and offer a bit of hope for the future of the vaccine rollout. The Covax programme was introduced with the sole aim of ensuring a fair distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine worldwide. Most notably, the scheme promised to provide the vaccines to poorer countries free of charge. However, the failure of the wealthier nations to co-operate and help fund the initiative has rendered it unfeasible.
Oxford/AstraZeneca has also promised to provide 64% of their vaccines to those in poorer countries. This may not create a completely equal vaccine rollout, but it definitely provides such nations with a slight glimmer of hope in unsettling times.
History schoolbooks are plastered cover to cover with the mistakes of those who came before us. With each heinous atrocity that is uncovered, it is soon after questioned ‘how did they let this happen?’ It is my hope that future generations do not look at the Covid-19 vaccine rollout and ask the same questions. We have the power right now to change the outcome, all by providing an equal and fair vaccine rollout that ensures good health and survival from this pandemic for all.