Updated: Jun 14, 2021
World News Editor
As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine production has erupted. Vaccines are being administered in various countries, and epidemiologists hope that the pandemic might come to an end once enough of the world is vaccinated. But many countries just can’t afford to vaccinate their populations. Vaccines are not cheap, and finding the resources to administer the vaccines upon obtaining them is yet another hurdle that many countries face. There needs to be a global effort to administer as many vaccines as possible in every country.
Acquiring vaccines is a step in the right direction in fighting and hopefully ending the COVID-19 pandemic, but so many countries struggle to do so. Many richer countries have hoarded vaccines, leaving few available for poorer nations. By the end of 2020, before a single vaccine was administered, besides in clinical trials, Canada had already reserved 266 million vaccines -- enough to vaccinate the entire country four times over! The United States, whose population is around 330 million, had already reserved over one billion vaccines, enough to vaccinate its total population three times. Instead of giving these extra doses to poorer countries, though, countries with more than enough doses to fully vaccinate their populations have hoarded them.
Even once a country gets vaccines, inoculating its population poses a new set of challenges. As of mid-April, 40% of Americans had received at least one vaccine, while 25% of the country had been fully vaccinated. In total, over 200 million vaccines had been administered in the United States, or at least one shot in 63 out of 100 individuals. By contrast, Mozambique, a nation with a GDP of $607 USD per capita, had only vaccinated a little over fifty thousand citizens, or 0.2% of its entire population of over 30 million people. Similarly, South Africa, another country with a GDP substantially lower than that of most developed countries, had only been able to vaccinate 0.5% of its population, showing the significant inequalities in vaccinations across the globe. That is why a global initiative to vaccinate the world is critical in helping put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Janet Yellen, the Biden administration’s Treasury Secretary, has called for a global effort in aiding poorer countries with their vaccine distribution and continues to express the need for one. She warns that those countries are already close to a “profound economic tragedy” due to COVID-19 itself. She emphasizes that vaccinating poorer countries could be economically beneficial to the rest of the world. A refusal to get involved could lead to “a problem for America,” as mutations originating in poorer countries could spread around the world, eventually evading the vaccines and rendering them ineffective. As COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, specifically in poorer countries with low vaccination rates, mutations are more likely to occur; to help prevent those mutations, vaccines need to be more rapidly administered.
Though there are some initiatives for a global fight against the pandemic, they have not lifted off the ground as hoped. The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), organized by the World Health Organization, Gavi (an international organization striving to provide immunizations in poorer countries), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, aims to “accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.” One of the goals of COVAX is to provide enough doses for 20% of every country’s population, but it has not executed its plans yet. In February, its first shipment of 600,000 doses went out to Ghana, only enough to vaccinate two percent of its population. Though it is better than nothing, COVAX’s current distribution has not done nearly enough to help poorer countries, continuing to leave a significant disparity in vaccinations between richer and poorer countries. Hopefully, it will achieve its end goal, but the need for a working global vaccine effort is currently evident.
As we continue to grasp and fight the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of people have little to no access to vaccines. That is why we must organize a global and equal effort to end vaccine inequality.