Wed | Jan 19, 2022

Letter of the Day | Haunted by vaccine inequality

Published:Tuesday | November 30, 2021 | 12:05 AM


The onset of COVID-19 has revealed many things about what really matters as it regards human existence. For example, handwashing can save lives; toilet paper is worth fighting for; and those big executives’ salaried jobs are worthless in a real crisis. Yes, cashiers, health workers, chefs and nurses proved to be far more important than previously agreed. Unfortunately, COVID-19 lessons will continue to attack us until we truly learn.

When the virus walked across the world, leaving sickness and death in its wake like the grim reaper, we all prayed for a saviour in the form of a vaccine. COVID-19 was not partial in its brutality, it affected rich and poor nations alike and bring all to their knees. Wealthy nations awash with cash showered money on Big Pharma to speed up the process of coming up with a cure. Some ordered from different pharmaceutical companies three times the number of their populations. And yes, they did promise to share.

When the vaccines were finally ready, then came a false scarcity. Wealthy nations hoarded the vaccine, securing more than 50 per cent of all vaccine, while only having 14 per cent of the world’s population. It was almost like a contest to see who among them could inoculate their population first. Wealthy nations can give first and second dosage to all who need it, and are now recommending a third booster; while other countries are barely managing to administer one dose. This is coupled with the vaccine hysteria – hesitancy driven by wayward popular influencers all around.

The effect of this is a double-edged sword as the virus is allowed to thrive and replicate; likely into a version more potent than the one before. The new strains are constantly being carried across borders. When this happens, wealthy nations naturally start to panic and further promote the boosters and order travel restrictions. Haunted by their hoarding, they yet again work feverishly to modify the vaccine to be effective against the new strains. How long will they keep this up? And is there another way?

There is no silver bullet to permanently stop the virus; however, I agree with the World Health Organization in advocating for vaccine equality. There are many challenges that poorer nations face in administering the vaccine; vaccine availability should not be one of them. It will only get worse if wealthy nations like America continue to focus on boosters for themselves, while some three billion-plus people across the globe have not been able receive a single dose. We need to vaccinate, in an equitable way, enough people across the globe to significantly curb the spread and replication of the virus. Otherwise, it will be akin to a dog trying to catch its tail, which will be futile.


Bronx, New York