IT is in times of crisis that we often see the best — or worst — of humanity. In this regard, the pandemic has put the world’s compassion to test. The rate at which rich nations are buying up vaccines from manufacturers that have a finite supply has been described by the WHO chief as “grotesque”. This week, as the body missed its target of seeing vaccines being administered in every country on the 100th day of 2021, Tedros Adhanom once again called out the shocking imbalance in vaccine distribution between rich and poor countries. He also noted that most countries do not have enough vaccines to cover their health workers or vulnerable groups. Of the over 730m vaccines administered all over the world, some 49pc have been injected in rich countries. In contrast, a mere 0.1pc have been administered in the 29 lowest-income countries.
The fact that developing countries are struggling to vaccinate even at-risk segments of the population, while rich nations administer jabs to even young, low-risk citizens is unacceptable. Israel, which has been lauded for its efficient vaccine roll-out and marvellous Covid-19 recovery, has done so at the expense of the Palestinians, who were deprived of vaccinations simply because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wished to send doses to countries that had agreed to move their embassies to Jerusalem. Though inequalities have always existed, the pandemic has underscored how self-serving interests and discriminatory policies have further marginalised vulnerable segments. Without equitable vaccine distribution, those in poor countries will suffer greatly in the long run. In many of these countries, life expectancy is low and infant mortality high. These factors coupled with low vaccination rates mean these countries will take years to recover. Economically strong countries ought to aid vaccine procurement and disbursement. Though many leaders in countries with high vaccination rates are congratulating themselves for ‘a job well done’, they ought to realise they are creating a false sense of security. Covid-19 mutations will continue to be a threat, until the majority of the world is vaccinated.
Published in Dawn, April 11th, 2021