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Wealthy countries hoard vaccines while poorer nations go without first dose

The world’s most wealthy countries are offering outrageous incentives to encourage citizens to get vaccinated. Meanwhile, citizens in poorer nations have yet to receive a single dose.

For many, a widely available vaccine seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel, a way out of lengthy lockdowns and a tool that would stop rising death tolls and ultimately lead to the closure of the pandemic.

However, the race for pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 has not been met with equal willingness from citizens in wealthy nations to receive it.

The USA in particular is seeing a nationwide decrease in the number of vaccines being administered daily. In many states, the rate has dropped 40% from previous months.

In response, local governments are coming up with some pretty ludicrous means of encouragement to help drive rates back up. Free beer, sports and airline tickets, lottery prize money, and even apartments, are just a few items being offered to encourage people to show up for their vaccines.

In what is probably the most American thing you’ve ever heard, the state of West Virginia is offering the chance to win a gun post-vaccination. Today in Washington state it has been announced that free pre-rolled joints will be offered as an incentive.

At surface level, this all seems pretty comical. President Biden’s goal to get 70% of America’s population vaccinated by the 4th of the July has now turned the effort into an effective kind of fun fair.

But there is a deeper, moral problem that lies within this madness, and it started before the vaccine was even ready for rollout.

In the early stages of vaccine development, the world’s most powerful and wealthy nations purchased more than half of all doses to be sold by pharmaceutical companies once approved.

By March 2021, both Canada and the UK had secured enough vaccines to give everyone living in the country a jab five times over. The US currently has millions of doses stored for later use.

To date, three quarters of the world’s vaccines have been administered to just 10 countries. The number of widely available vaccines in these rich nations are a sharp contrast to the 125 developing countries who are struggling to simply obtain them.

To put it into perspective, Bangladesh has just 1 dose for every 9 people in the country. In all African countries combined, less than 2 percent of the population has received a single dose of the vaccine.

The world’s richest nations continue to hold onto their vaccine surplus while other countries have yet to get their programme sufficiently off the ground. Many of these stockpiled vaccines could reach their expiry date before ever being administered.

Meanwhile, developing nations are relying on Covax to attain vaccines. Covax is an initiative that aims to have 30% of the global population vaccinated by the end of 2021, by aiding with equal distribution to countries in need.

Despite successfully delivering 49 million doses so far, Covax is struggling to meet this goal as their vaccine supplies are quickly depleting.

As a result of this, UNICEF has called on G7 countries to donate a portion of their supply to struggling nations. Combined, this would provide them with 153 million additional doses while still allowing G7 countries to meet their national targets.

But the selfish mentality of richer nations is more evident than ever.

The UK’s Health Secretary stated that ‘we do not currently have spare doses’, adding that he would prioritise vaccinating children – who by the way, are generally unaffected by COVID-19 – before considering to send any abroad.

In order to minimise global death rates and halt the production of new variants (which inevitably find their way around the world), it only seems logical for nations with a vaccine surplus to lend a hand to countries who do not have access to them.

Unwilling government attitudes towards dose-sharing have resulted in vaccine nationalism, a crisis which perfectly illustrates the level of inequity in the world right now.

 

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