Editor’s Note: A Jab For All
We all knew it was coming, didn’t we? As the various vaccines for coronavirus began to circulate, it was the richest nations that reaped the benefits of the amazing scientific accomplishment.
While the process of vaccinating millions of people has been disjointed in most places, other parts of the world would gladly exchange positions. For example, news reports indicate that Africa is not expected to begin immunizations until the summer. In the meantime, the virus continues to run rampant through poor villages and poverty-stricken urban areas.
One of the main culprits for this disparity is that the vaccines require a complicated cold supply chain to keep them within tightly controlled temperature ranges. This is not an easy hurdle to clear. Nevertheless, most wealthy nations are much better equipped to handle this challenge. As you might imagine, that’s not the case in less fortunate countries that often struggle with providing their people with even the most basic needs. To make matters worse, these developing countries may be in the midst of other crises such as civil wars.
Fortunately, there are leaders and organizations in the world community who are acutely aware of the situation. United Nations Chief Antonio Guterres has insisted that COVID-19 vaccines must be available for all. “To think that we can preserve the rich people, and let the poor people suffer, is a stupid mistake,” he told UN News.
Then there’s Covax, a global initiative to ensure rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all countries, regardless of income level. In December, it announced that it had arrangements in place to access nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, on behalf of 190 participating economies.
Still, many countries are in scramble mode. For example, according to Bloomberg News, South Africa has arranged to purchase enough shots for only 10% of its population of 60 million people through the Covax initiative. Other African countries have their own plans for vaccine procurement, but most do not.
“The Covax facility, whilst noble in its social solidarity mission for equitable access of vaccines, was never likely to break the legacy of the lag it takes before life-saving vaccines become available to low- and middle-income countries,” Shabir Madhi, a vaccinology professor and head of the South African arm of the AstraZeneca COVID vaccine trial, told Bloomberg.
If health inequities are to be curtailed and for social justice to prevail, the world community must come together to ensure all persons have an equal opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19.