Michaela Da Silva, Staff Reporter

As of January 2021, more than 70% of the COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer have gone to the world’s most rich, wealthy countries.

These high-income countries, which represent only 16 percent of the world’s population, have taken 60 percent of available doses. Canada, for example, has  enough vaccines to immunize 5 times the total population, and some of the less fortunate countries have as little as 25 doses (not for 25 people,  just 25 individual vaccines). It said that nearly 70 lower-income countries would only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people. 

CARE’s analysis of INFORM Global Risk Index data has found that the world’s ‘highest risk’ countries have three times higher exposure to epidemics, such as COVID-19, but also have a six times higher risk in terms of their access to healthcare compared to the world’s lowest risk countries (Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and many more are on this high risk list). Less than 30% of these countries have received sustainable amounts of  the  vaccine, and nearly 70 lower-income countries are still only able to vaccinate one in ten people. 

Moral failures 

 “I need to be blunt: the world is on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure – and the price of this failure will be paid with lives and livelihoods in the world’s poorest countries.”

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization  

The moral failure that this situation represents can only be solved by those in rich political powers, as well as leaders in organizations such as WHO and CARE. This egocentric, “me first” attitude will spiral the global economy into an ethical and economic downfall. While most world leaders and political billionaires are currently focused on pumping their countries full of vaccinations, the spotlight has been lifted off the more quiet, penurious countries. Ultimately, these actions will prolong the pandemic and spark new issues with more psychological, economic suffering. The pandemic won’t solely be based on physical health and mortality rate, but population discrimination and the inbalance of our ethical views. 

This situation will further feed the overpowering capitalist greed of our world, creating more drastic social levels with poverty vs power.   Ideally, there would be more financial aid and donor programs for the less fortunate, and countries such as Canada, United States and China will donate portions of their mass vaccine supply.  Most rich countries were able to establish vaccines for their citizens, but some of the poorest countries will take upwards of 10 years to bounce back from this pandemic. But, since our world is primarily outspoken by the rich countries, the covid-19 pandemic will be viewed as “tackled” and “overcome” and  “defeated” once places like Canada and USA have reached a healthy equilibrium again, even when the majority of the human population is still suffering. 

Better late than never 

This theme of overbuying vaccines in wealthy countries was obviously present very early on in the vaccine race, however it is just recently that health organizations have started to pick up on the increasing, detrimental trend. WHO launched an international advocacy, set to roll out with the coming months, called Covax. The goal of this program is to work with donors and wealthier countries to provide vaccines to other areas that are financially unfit and to create a better balance between the countries that have surplus. Under the surface of this seemingly great news (that took quite some time), Covax’s larger aim is to unite countries into one power so they have more capacity to negotiate with drug companies, both now and in the wake of future global health needs. So although it represents hope and optimism in many lower-income countries, the main goal of the initiative reflects how power-hungry we are and, even in a pandemic, how much we strive to establish influential dominance and express our greed. Covax was a seemingly rushed, still quite messy initiative that bases more of its efforts on trying to encompass everybody instead of just the countries that need it.

It prompts one to look back on the dubiously pointless “All Lives Matter” conversations and protests that happened throughout this year. Yes, all of our lives do evidently matter and should be cherished as the wonderful human beings we are, but that cannot happen until black and minority lives are more included and appreciated. Similarly, the whole world wants to slowly dig itself out of the covid-19 pandemic, but that cannot happen until more support is directed at the poorer, poverty-stricken countries.

“The COVAX vaccines were a way the developed countries, like Canada, were helping poorer countries have access to vaccines,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said in a Thursday press conference. “The very fact that Canada is the only G7 country asking the COVAX consortium for vaccines is a demonstration that we have no plan, and Canadians need vaccines to get the country working to secure our future.”

Everything we do as humans in this society depends on some way or another on the Government and our higher powers, but, if this mass vaccine buying situation has shown, we tend to neglect our ethical and equitable values when considering the health and mental wellbeing of the rest of our kind. 

Further information on COVAX: https://www.who.int/initiatives/act-accelerator/covax

BBC comments on moral catastrophes: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-55709428

Statistics on vaccine rollout to poor vs rich countries: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/02/01/covid-vaccines-access-poor-rich-countries/

https://reliefweb.int/report/world/vulnerable-countries-face-3-times-risk-covid-19-exposure-yet-have-6-times-lower-access 

https://www.oxfam.org/en/press-releases/mega-rich-recoup-covid-losses-record-time-yet-billions-will-live-poverty-least

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/rich-countries-including-canada-have-bought-too-many-covid-19-vaccines-amnesty-1.5223130

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-too-many-not-enough-vaccines-1.5903430 https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/canada-has-reserved-more-vaccine-doses-per-person-than-anywhere-1.1533041

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-55229894