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Given the spike in 19 cases of Covid, the launch of a vaccine is raising expectations for some of them to have a successful year. But there are those in parts of the world for whom it’s a very different story, as International Editor David Pratt reports,
This is not the foreign tale for which I intended to write at the beginning of 2021. And some of you, I’m sure, wish you hadn’t read about it. The dawn of a new year should somehow bring respite from the virus in the eye of our minds for so many of us, worn down by endless lockdown rounds and facing a worrisome increase in transmission of Covid 19.
But in the midst of the recent difficulties, it’s worth noting that there was no vaccine ready for delivery only a few months ago.
That has now changed, with the announcement last week that by “late spring” a large number of individuals in the UK will be given vaccination against the coronavirus. There is also promising news from elsewhere about the vaccine.
“President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission summarized that the EU has “secured adequate doses of vaccines for 450 million people in our entire population.”
While such news is undeniably welcome here on our doorstep, the wider tale of the global implementation of vaccines is very different. Indeed, many of our fellow global citizens do so with far greater trepidation about what lies ahead, as the planet rings in the first week of 2021.
Who gets the vaccines, how many and when is just one aspect of the planet’s major ethical controversy that happens daily. Covid-19 has been identified as a disease of the haves and have-nots for some time. Just last month, on Dec. 10, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s three close political allies who were afflicted with the virus but healed rapidly were given medications that were not open to the rest of Americans.
While it may have been an isolated occurrence, the story highlighted how unjust many people may expect to feel about the assistance and care of those at risk or who have succumbed to Covid-19.
Activists have already warned that an estimated nine out of 10 citizens will not be vaccinated against Covid-19 in hundreds of poor countries this year because rich countries have stockpiled much more doses than they need.
The alert received new momentum last month from the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of Oxfam, Amnesty International and Global Justice Now, after it was announced that the new viral variant is spreading from Finland to Japan, India to South Africa and beyond worldwide.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance said as early as last November that rich nations, home to 14 per cent of the world’s population, had bought 53 per cent of the total supply of the most promising vaccines.
More than half of these possible doses have been bought by the UK, EU, US, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, Hong Kong, Macau, New Zealand, Israel and Kuwait, according to alliance member Oxfam.
The United Kingdom alone has secured enough to cover about 3 times its population. With the amount of doses reserved, the EU and the U.S. will immunize almost twice their populations. On the other hand, Canada has bought enough to vaccinate its population 4 to 5 times over.
Mohga Kamal-Yanni, a consultant with the People’s Vaccine Alliance, told Reuters news agency last month, “This should not be a battle between countries to secure enough doses,”
People’s lives and livelihoods should be put before the profits of pharmaceutical firms in these unprecedented times of a global pandemic,”In these unprecedented times of a global pandemic, people’s lives and livelihoods should be put before pharmaceutical companies’ profits,”
As history has demonstrated more than once, such a vaccine is most immediately administered to those lucky enough to live in the richest nations of the world, while the majority of the world’s population struggles for many decades before, if ever, deadly diseases are eradicated. A case in point is polio.
In the 1950s and ’60s, a vaccine was developed against the disease, leading to the virus being eradicated in most developed countries. But the World Health Organization (WHO) proclaimed the African continent clear of wild polio only last August.
In an interview with Inter news agency