As the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic tethers around nearly 2.5 million, countries worldwide suffer severe poverty, mortality, and incertitude. The unprecedented acceleration of the virus overwhelmed healthcare, economic, and social systems on an international scale like never before. Three frontier pharmaceutical companies–Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca–demonstrated successful RNA vaccination trials. Granted emergency approval, the companies expedited the circulation of the vaccine. However, with little government regulation and transparency surrounding the pricing and distribution of the vaccine, socioeconomics will determine which countries receive a reprieve from the pandemic.
This pandemic has exacerbated global economic disparities. The concentration of wealth largely residing within Western nations that already experience extreme advantages over non-western and third-world countries. Recently, this being the ability to control the circulation and allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine. Current estimations suggest that low-socioeconomic countries are not likely to reach mass immunization until 2024, by which time the virus is likely to have grown resistant to treatment.
Vaccines have begun to roll-out worldwide to the highest paying countries. Currently, the U.S.A. has over 600 million doses of the vaccine available, enough to vaccinate the entire population under the two-shot regime. The UN Secretary-General reports that 10 countries worldwide have administered 75% of all coronavirus vaccinations. He says, “vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community.” According to ONE, the excess stock-pilling of vaccines is a clear demonstration of nationalism. Countries are prioritizing their people at the expense of those in need, limiting the global recovery and increasing the socio-economic divide. ONE warns that countries choosing to ‘hoard’ vaccines are risking the re-emergence of coronavirus mutations and variants. Zain Rizvi, a human rights advocate describes the international vaccine shortage as “morally bankrupt.”
French President Emmanuel Macron has requested that Europe and the United States donate between 3-5% of their vaccines to the developing world. Macron states the current ‘hoarding’ is “politically unsustainable… paving the way for a war of influence of vaccines.” China and Russia have already begun exporting thousands of coronavirus vaccines to developing nations. African countries expect to receive 90 million doses by month-end, covering only 3% of the population. Yamkela Makupula, a South African businesswomen, states, “vaccinating a portion of the world, leaving the rest to fend for themselves with limited resources is a very flawed strategy.”
The lack of regulation surrounding the distribution of the vaccine allows pharmaceutical companies to dictate their prices. De Gama reports that the AstraZeneca vaccine was sold to South Africa for double the amount charged to European nations. The World Trade Organization has proposed a patient waiver for the vaccination that will enable a greater proportion of the population to receive the vaccination. COVAX is a secondary organization that aims to regulate the distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations. However, the World Health Organization estimates over $5 billion of funding will be needed to begin distributing to the most vulnerable 20%. Although promising, the organization relies on the generosity and donations of other countries.
The pandemic has impacted the entire world. Therefore, to ensure the world recovers, we need to have an impartial and just dispersion of vaccinations. Vaccinating the upper 1% will not cure or reduce coronavirus but rather cause long-term and detrimental implications. Worldwide we all play a role in advocating for equality. To ensure social harmony, we must prioritize health over wealth.
Now, more than ever we mustn’t be blinded by race, colour, or prejudice; we must all work towards a common goal. Coronavirus has created unprecedented change and hardship, but it has also opened space for open conversation and dialogue. We have seen strength, unity, and cohesion in the banding together of people. To ensure peace and equality, we must capitalize on the sense of community felt worldwide, working to promote racial and social equity.
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