As the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, the news of the vaccine has been the one source of good news. But along with the news of vaccines being ready, there is also the sheer injustice of mass hoarding taking place. Wealthy countries – mostly in the Global North – have already bought massive amounts of the vaccine.
Wealthy nations such as Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom (UK), Japan and others have bought up massive amounts of vaccines. These countries all plan to vaccinate the majority of their populations. Incoming American president Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million Covid vaccinations in his first 100 days in office. The UK has already started rolling out the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine which they approved.
These countries have resources and important ties to pharmaceutical companies aiding their acquisitions of the vaccines. On the other hand there have been countries from the Global South including South Africa and all the countries on the African continent. These are countries which do not have resources or capital available to stockpile the vaccines. Forget buying the vaccines before the vaccines are approved, many of these countries won’t even have the resources to buy the vaccine once it’s approved. They will be left behind in the race to vaccinate their populations against the COVID-19 virus. While the Global North and the countries who can afford it will be able to to successfully vaccinate their populations, the rest of the world will be left out.
Speaking to The Daily Vox, Fatima Hassan, founder and head of the Health Justice Initiative (HJI) said the wealthier countries don’t care about the implications. There are global implications of a situation where the majority of the world’s population won’t be vaccinated. In the globalised world we live in millions of people usually travel everyday across the globe. While the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily decreased the amount of travel that takes place, it hasn’t stopped it by any chance. People need to travel – whether it’s for work, pleasure or to escape difficult situations. Yet there already exist many barriers of global travel especially for people living in the developing world. From exorbitant visa fees, to background checks and more there is a lot of red tape people have to traverse if you want to visit America and any European countries.
Now with the vaccine another barrier will be added to global travel. Many countries already require vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis B and meningitis amongst others. Now it’s likely they will require a person to be vaccinated for the coronavirus before they enter the country. This will increase the barriers of entry for many people. And that’s just speaking about people travelling “with legal means”. For many who are escaping difficult conditions, they live under the fear of being deported and sent back to their home country for a number of reasons. Now wealthy countries like America and those in Europe can use the excuse of a person being unvaccinated to deport a person.
While people have said the virus has been a big equaliser, it has actually only increased inequalities and these inequalities are only set to increase. Hassan said the entire English cricket team could be vaccinated against the virus and then go to play cricket in Sri Lanka or English tourists will be vaccinated and then go to holiday in South Africa. In both instances, they would be safe from the virus but going to countries where the people do not have any access to the vaccine.
While the vaccine is being tested and developed in many developing countries like South Africa and Brazil, this doesn’t give them access to the vaccine for their populations. That’s why South Africa and India have been fighting for equitable access to the vaccine. But wealthy nations last month said they opposed a proposal to waive intellectual property rules for COVID-19 drugs. They want all the resources and the knowledge of the vaccine to be kept for themselves.
It’s about more than just going on holiday and catching flights around the world. The global implications of the hoarding of vaccines could see a global crisis between the so-called Global North and Global South. This is something that the wealthy countries with their nationalistic, profit-driven policies need to consider.