Apr 16, 2021 | OPINION | By Mahnoor Rehman | Photo by Bibi Powers
As countries manufacture and administer COVID-19 vaccines around the world, inequality and discrimination have become apparent in the process of vaccine distribution. Due to the lack of vaccine access in developing countries, immunization of these populations is a big challenge for some governments and health care systems.
While most developed countries have initiated the vaccination process at a fast rate, access to vaccines for developing and developed countries is not the same due to inequalities in the health care system and privatization of medicine.
Out of the 700 million vaccine doses that have been manufactured, Africa accessed less than 2% percent of them while North America has 27% of the share. At this rate, it would take years for countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin America to reach the same level of immunization as North America and Europe.
Around three-quarters of the total administered vaccines have been utilized by the world’s richest countries. This represents the reality of the global health care system that is concentrated in rich countries and has benefitted them throughout history.
The inequality in vaccine distribution can lead to damaging consequences for the future. One of the main concerns is surrounding the travel industry. A new debate has arisen regarding the vaccine passports that will allow only vaccinated folks to travel around the world, especially in countries that are fully vaccinated. In a very explicit way, the idea of a vaccine passport is discriminatory and racist.
Already, visa and national passport requirements are highly restrictive and one of the major causes of global inequality. The vaccine passports seem like an add-on to the oppressive system. Closing borders and restricting travel will further decrease the diversity in the global health system and also create a huge problem for the existing refugee crisis.
Additionally, rich countries have the resources to provide free vaccines for their populations. This is not the case in other countries with intensely privatized medical systems that have to import the vaccines at higher prices.
In order to fill in the economic inequality gap, private medical research centers have to sell the vaccine to the population at a standardized rate. This creates inequality within the poor countries as well, as not everyone is able to buy the administered vaccines due to their other necessary expenses.
The countries that have been successfully administering their populations are also the ones that have the capability to educate the people about the significance of vaccines in fighting the pandemic of COVID-19.
With the emergence of vaccines, conspiracy theories and fake news spread like wildfire. In order to prevent further damage, the developed countries were able to communicate about the side effects of the vaccines in a much easier manner as most of the population has access to technology or medical assistance.
This is not possible in other developing countries that are unable to prevent fake news from spreading. The number of anti-vaxxers is increasing every day and it is extremely difficult to educate everyone about the vaccines.
Therefore, vaccine distribution is not just about global health but also about the global inequality that has intertwined itself with the global health care system. As the world takes a step forward from the pandemic, the social issues surrounding COVID-19 vaccines have to be acknowledged and resolved for a better future.