Sir, – A global injustice is unfolding before our eyes as the world begins to distribute Covid-19 vaccines. Just 13 per cent of the wealthiest countries have pre-purchased 51 per cent of the available vaccines. Some countries have even ordered enough doses to vaccinate their populations multiple times over. For instance, Canada, with a population of 38 million, has reserved 414 million doses.
At the same time, many of the world’s poorest countries won’t be able to roll-out a vaccine to their general populations until 2022 or even 2023. The reality is that despite the best efforts of the global Covax facility, wealthier countries have the resources to secure bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies. They will get their populations vaccinated first, leaving the poorest countries at the bottom of the queue.
Trócaire has worked in Somalia for over 30 years and we are the only healthcare provider in Gedo district, an area the size of Ireland. We don’t anticipate receiving any vaccines, not even for our doctors, nurses and midwives, until well into next year. Should one doctor have to isolate at home and not work because of Covid-19, it could be life-threatening to expectant mothers.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation, has warned that this inequality of vaccine distribution could result in a “catastrophic moral failure”. Yet it may also prove short-sighted in terms of richer countries’ own interests. A recent study by the International Chamber of Commerce concluded the global economy could suffer losses exceeding $9 trillion if poorer countries – which produce most of the goods we consume – are shut out from vaccine rollouts. This, in effect, debunks the notion that sharing vaccines with poor countries is merely a form of charity.
This is about justice and fairness. It is not a case of pitting one set of vulnerable people against another – it is about acknowledging that fairness must come into play as we are all equally vulnerable. We should be vaccinating vulnerable groups and frontline workers first across all countries.
As with everything else in life, there is a balance to be struck.
We must support poorer countries while protecting the most vulnerable within our own communities here at home. – Yours, etc,
CAOIMHE de BARRA,