MEXICO CITY – In recent weeks, Britain and the United States have watched with relief as their citizens began vaccinating. COVID-19 – but in much of Latin America, Africa and much of Asia, the news was greeted with a mixture of resignation and anger.
For many people in the developing world, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
These countries are fighting for access to the long-awaited vaccines after rich countries have reserved enough doses to inoculate their populations several times.
“International solidarity must grow,” Martha Delgado, the Mexican official tasked with negotiating the country’s vaccination contracts, told BuzzFeed News. Reiterating concerns in the developing world, he warned that the global pandemic will not end until everyone has access to the vaccine. She wants the United States and other Western countries to think outside their borders and of their immediate needs. “No one will be saved until everyone is vaccinated,” he said.
Canada, for example, has pre-ordered at least four times the amount it needs to vaccinate its 38 million citizens. The UK has secured enough to cover almost three times its population. The European Union and the United States will be able to immunize almost all of its inhabitants twice the number of doses of vaccines they have reserved. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the global population will not have access to a vaccine until at least 2022, according to the BMJ, a medical journal.
So far, some of the poorest countries that have been hardest hit by the virus have only preordered it to cover a small fraction of their population. Peru, where a dramatic lack of oxygen has left the country on the brink earlier this year, and El Salvador, where more than 1 in 4 people fall below the poverty line, have pre-arranged doses for less than half of its population, according to a New York Times analysis.
Countries that have preordained but no political influence or economic power should expect more from the great powers. Mexico, which according to its government has secured contracts with various pharmaceutical companies to inoculate 116 million of its 126 million citizens against COVID-19, says it will not end the operation until the March 2022 low.
After Delgado told the BBC that “at least in Mexico we have the money to buy vaccines,” Xavier Tello, a health policy expert based in Mexico City, said. retweeted a post linking to the interview, saying that “I may have the money to buy a Tesla; but if someone else has already paid, I’ll probably be on a waiting list.”
Many in Mexico say the country can’t wait much longer. On paper, the country has the fourth highest death toll, just behind the United States, Brazil and India, but the official number – 118,598 – is probably much lower than the actual number of casualties. There were at least 60,000 more. “excess“More deaths than these during 2020.
And Mexico’s health workers say they are stretched to the limit with ongoing shortages of PPE, fatigue – and pain. More than 2,250 doctors, nurses and medical staff are involved he is dead, according to government numbers. With nearly three times the population of Mexico, some 1500 health workers they died in the United States.
Who gets how many vaccines, and when, has opened an unprecedented ethical debate. Should governments give priority to their citizens? Should the first vaccines be given to a certain proportion of the population of each country? Should initial doses be given to people at risk around the world before they are distributed among those without comorbidities?
Arthur Caplan, head of the Medical Ethics Division of the NYU School of Medicine, said he defends in part the first school of thought – vaccine nationalists. Countries that can afford it should treat their premiums, “a little more for insurance,” in case current vaccines offer only immunity for a limited amount of time and a booster is needed in the near future.
But when it comes to making a more ethical decision, Caplan said that once a state has vaccinated its health care workers, elderly adults, and people with pre-existing conditions, it should move to inoculate the same population in other countries later before vaccination. young adults and low-risk population.
COVID-19 has made such a splash around the world that equity is not part of the decision when it comes to vaccine distribution among countries.
“Rich countries are in bad shape they don’t think they are,” Caplan told BuzzFeed News.
While the second option – allocating vaccines to an equal number of people in each country – may seem more appropriate, it may end up being ineffective. Ignacio Mastroleo, an Argentine expert in medical ethics and part of the ethics group and COVID-19 of the World Health Organization, note that giving Peru and Poland the same amount of vaccines, for example, would not take into account that the virus has killed 11,600 people in more in the former than in the latter (their populations are 32 million and 38 million, respectively).
This option “is not sensitive to the needs of the population,” Mastroleo said, adding that the poverty rate in Peru is 10 times higher than in Poland.
Mastroleo said that if there is a silver lining, it is that, unlike the 2009 swine flu pandemic, there are efforts by international organizations to support equality in access to vaccines this time. One of these mechanisms, co-founded by the WHO and known as COVAX, is a global group of vaccines to which the poorest countries will have access. But the scheme provides only less than 20% of the 92 populations of middle- and low-income countries.
Unequal access to vaccines is likely to occur not only among countries but in them, leaving millions of people vulnerable without defense against the virus. On Monday, Colombian President Iván Duque announced during a interview with Blu Radio that there is no plan to vaccinate undocumented people, saying that if the country did, it could create a “stampede” of immigrants in Colombia. There are currently 1.7 million Venezuelans living in Colombia, and about 55% of them have no citizenship. Most of them are facing an economic crisis and a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
Aid per million people may not come until the end of 2021 or even later, when countries that have accumulated excess vaccines sell or donate to poorer states, according to Delgado.
“That’s the wrong strategy,” Delgado said. Relief will come sooner around the world when people stop “seeking their own salvation”.