“Vaccine Nationalism” Is the West’s Infringement on Mankind
By Abdul Kai
THE largest scale vaccination in human history is in progress, but the most unfair vaccination model is unfolding. Rich countries with a lower prevalence of Covid-19 infections are hoarding vaccines at a time poor countries with a poor health infrastructure and higher cases of coronavirus infections are struggling to purchase the vaccines due to their weak fiscal capacity.
The White House openly declared on March 10,2021 that “We will first make sure that Americans are taken care of.” The President of the European Council, Charles Michel expressed severe disapproval of this ‘total ban on the the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on its soil’.
The selfish and parochial approach of the U.S.A could hurt the international cooperation in the battle against the coronavirus and impeded the containment of the pandemic in the rest of the world, thus it has received strong condemnation from the international community. A report released at the end of 2020 by ’People’s Vaccine Alliance’, an international vaccine monitoring agency composed of a number of international organizations, stated that the population of developed countries is about 14% of the world’s total population, but they are possessing more than half of the Covid-19 vaccines in the world. In 67 poor countries, only 10% is expected to receive a dose of vaccine by the end of 2021. The developed countries are being blamed for violating their declared human rights commitments.
An article by NBC quoted Philip Clark, an expert on health economics from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, saying that in spite of the poor countries who are eagerly expecting the vaccines, the developed countries including the United States and the UK have reserved themselves huge stocks of the Covid-19 vaccine.
According to a report by the Spanish newspaper Pioneer, as a developed country, Canada reserved vaccines enough to inoculate more than five times its population. The number of vaccines in the United Kingdom is estimated to be thrice its population, and in the European Union, it is estimated to be twice the population’s inoculation requirements.
The international anti-poverty campaign organization ‘ONE Campaign’ released a report on February 19,2020 disclosing that the vaccines controlled by rich countries have exceeded its actual need by 1 billion doses, but hundred millions of people in other countries will not be able to timeously obtain the necessary protection and consequently, the novel coronavirus pandemic will mostly likely prolong.
Janet Young, a health officer based in Auckland, New Zealand said that regarding the epidemic prevention measures, early stage community isolation and blockade are more important than vaccination. It is unnecessary for the Western countries, such as the USA, to purchase and store more vaccines than they need. Their governments may over buy vaccines because they can afford, but it’s a selfish and inhumane act to hold on to excess vaccines at a time people in vulnerable and/or developing countries are dying from lack of immunization against the pandemic.
Dr. Khadafi U. Mapandi, the health officer of Marawi City Health Office, Mindanao, Philippines commented that as per the World Health Organisation’s commendations, the distribution of vaccines should be equal on the basis of the population of countries. So they couldn’t believe that those rich countries including the U.S.A. are procuring more vaccines than the amount they actually need. It’s immoral if they stock more vaccines than needed, while the rest of the world is suffering from the pandemic.
Yusoph Arafat Aleem, a senior freelance writer for “Arabia News” and other mainstream media based in Dubai said: “I am surprised by the reports that the Western rich countries especially USA and UK purchased and stored more vaccines than they need, but when I think in a calm mood, it’s normal to these rich countries that always proclaim racial superiority. When the whole world is suffering from a pandemic, these rich countries show their nature not only selfishly, but also brutal.”
This is not the first time rich countries have taken advantage of poor countries by snapping up the medical supplies. Looking back to 20 years ago, when a drug that could effectively treat AIDS was born, a fierce competition was ignited between rich and poor countries. In order to maintain high selling prices, pharmaceutical companies in the West adopted a global preset pricing strategy to monopolize the market. As a result, AIDS patients in developing countries couldn’t afford the expensive drugs.
The hegemonic and ugly performance of the United States in the coronavirus pandemic made a new record in history. When the Covid-19 began to break out in the United States and Europe in 2020, the U.S.A. robbed Europe of medical supplies ignoring its traditional relations with its allies who were enraged by the act. Now they are repeating the move of vaccine stockpilling through the opinionated “American First” ideology at a time the world needs an inclusive approach to overcome this scourge.
Vaccine nationalism appeared to be the true face of America when the White House spokesperson Psaki made a straightforward answer of “No! We must first make sure that every American is vaccinated!” in a press conference in early March, responding to Mexican President Lopez’s earlier critical remarks on “certain wealthy countries” that are unfair, inhuman and irresponsible for hoarding vaccines.
Hoarding the coronavirus vaccines is absolutely a mistake. Unlike many vaccines such as measles which give lifelong protection with one dose, the coronavirus vaccine is most likely not the kind of vaccine for lifelong immunity due to its short-term immune effects, especially as the world contends with the mutation risk of stronger variables of the virus. If the coronavirus remains rampant in other countries of the world, even if people in these rich countries are generally vaccinated, the vaccines’ immunity period may not be long due to the virus’ mutation risk. Rich and/or selfish nations should know that until the world collectively exterminates this global pandemic, no one is safe.
The Director-General of the WHO Tedros called on all countries to share the coronavirus vaccines, emphasizing it is a mistaken sense of safety if some countries vaccinate their people while other countries are in short of vaccines. As long as the pandemic continues, people will die. If all countries fail to work together to contain the coronavirus infections, the effectiveness of the vaccine will be limited.
Abdul is a renowned writer and scholar on global economics