Inequities remain

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg on Monday added her voice to growing concerns over Covid-19 inoculation inequity, calling on governments, pharmaceutical researchers and developers, and the world to “step up their game” to effect fairer, international vaccine distribution.

Thunberg’s urging is just as urgent as is the repetitive, global messaging calling for an end to vaccine inequity. As we have noted before, and as the World Health Organisation, humanitarian groups, and scientists are reiterating, no nation is totally immune from Covid-19 until all nations begin acquiring full population immunity; also, that the pestilential coronavirus knows no borders, even as it ignores status, privilege, and power in its inexorable, leveling march through countries, populations, and the hierarchies that shape us as a species.

Thus, it makes no sense that richer nations are outpacing developing countries with its ascending rates of immunisations, given global interconnectivity through economies and population mobility, among other reasons.

That the Covid-19 virus is relentless and indiscriminating over who it infects, and where it encroaches, is too evident now as nations frantically raise drawbridges and dredge moats to keep out its third, attacking wave. As the experts predicted earlier this month, including eminent doctors in our own Caribbean community, this latest infectious wave is yet another climbing exponential that has already started with a nightmarish, vertical uplift.

On Monday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed that new Covid-19 cases last week rose for an eighth straight week globally, with the number of deaths also trending upwards for a fifth straight week. He also noted that infections among people between the ages of 25 to 59 were “increasing at an alarming rate, possibly as a result of highly contagious variants and increased social mixing among younger adults”.

So far, the pathology of Covid-19’s ill-effects as nations deal with its unwelcome visitation has seen a tentative step forward, with two steps or more backwards in hasty retreat. This week, increasing global figures reveal three million patients in total have been killed by Covid-19, with over 141 million persons infected in the world, according to statistics maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

Despite such compelling evidence, with corollary confirmation of millions of deaths across borders, on nationalities, and in nations, there remains a troubling and uneven distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the globe.

As Thunberg reiterated on Monday, pointing to the inequities in vaccine deployment between have-and-have-not nations, “It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups, and on the front lines in low- and middle-income countries.”

For example, a look at the homeland in Guyana this week reveals it received a consignment of 83,000 Sputnik V vaccines, part of the government’s larger purchase targeting immunisation of 200,000 nationals out of its 783,000 population. The purchase and delivery of the vaccines are two parts of the government’s aggressive push against more powerful and deep-pocketed nations to secure an adequate supply of vaccines for its entire population.

In this unwholesome climate of vaccine inequity, Guyana’s Health Ministry is counting its blessings, saying its limited, national vaccination deployment is an “incredible achievement, in an environment where developing countries have had little to no access to Covid-19 vaccines”.

As it noted in a statement issued earlier this week, “More than 30 countries have had no access to even a single dose of vaccine as yet. Dozens of countries have only received enough vaccines for less than one percent of their population. Over the next several days and in the coming weeks, Guyana will pursue access to an even larger [quantity] of vaccines.”

Thunberg’s voice is yet another challenge to wealthier countries hogging Covid-19 vaccines; however, the need remains for more even distribution by these nations.