The Irish Times view on Covid-19 in Ireland: the jabbed and the jab-nots

Rich states in particular must heed the pleas of the WHO for a more internationalist approach to the crisis

'We're very much in the middle of this pandemic," Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organisation's technical lead for Covid-19, said this week. "But where in the middle… we're not quite sure yet." However, it is becoming more difficult to speak of one crisis when in reality vaccine and healthcare inequalities have made this a two-track pandemic. In the richest states, where large majorities of the population are now fully vaccinated, life is returning to normal, or at least to a close approximation of normality. In the developing world and in places where anti-scientific vaccine scepticism runs high, however, ICUs are under terrible strain and the disease is running rampant through unprotected communities.

In the Republic, where well in excess of 90 per cent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, there is an unmistakable sense that the pandemic is winding down. The restrictions that accompanied it certainly are. The country is "in a good place", Philip Nolan of the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) said this week. He suggested that thanks to the protective effects of vaccines, we were in "a long, slow final phase".

But it is important to remain alert to the risks that remain. One is a surge in transmission of the virus in Ireland due to waning vaccine efficacy over time and the easing of public health protocols. A second, related risk is that wide transmission of the virus elsewhere in the world creates a climate in which new, vaccine-resistant variants emerge, potentially sending progress everywhere into reverse.

Throughout the pandemic, states have acted in their own narrow interests even when the moral case for global action was compelling. Now that the worst appears to have passed, the west in particular must heed the pleas of the WHO for a more internationalist approach to the crisis. Doing so would entail accepting a moratorium on booster jabs, at least for those who are not immunocompromised or otherwise highly vulnerable, until the world has had an opportunity to close the dose distribution gap between rich and poor.