10 reasons why everyone should advocate for Covid-19 vaccine equity

Without equitable & widespread access to Covid-19 vaccines, this pandemic will not end
Published in Microbiology
10 reasons why everyone should advocate for Covid-19 vaccine equity

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If you live in a high-income country, in all likelihood you already got your Covid-19 vaccine. Sadly, this not a reality for millions of people living in several low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

Courtesy: Our World in Data

According to a Nature analysis, around 11 billion doses are needed to fully vaccinate 70% of the world’s population against Covid-19. As of early July, 3.2 billion doses had been given. But so far, more than 80% of the doses have gone to people in high-income (HIC) and upper-middle-income countries. Only 1% of people in low-income countries (LIC) have been given at least one dose. Most people in the poorest countries will need to wait another two years before they are vaccinated against COVID-19.

This delay could mean millions of deaths in the coming years. Why? Because the highly transmissible and dangerous  Delta variant is rapidly becoming the globally dominant variant. It is now causing huge surges in many parts of the world, including Asia, Africa and Europe. As we saw in India, the Delta variant can be catastrophic. Without widespread vaccination, millions of people will die and the world simply cannot end this global crisis.

All of us, no matter where we live, must advocate for equitable and widespread access to Covid-19 vaccination. Here is my list of 10 good reasons why we must demand vaccine equity. 

1. We cannot be happy if others are suffering. So, equity in vaccine access is the correct, just, moral thing to do. We need to care about saving lives in all countries, not just our own ("leave no one behind") 

2. Health is a fundamental human right. Vaccines are like essential medicines, and are an integral part of healthcare

3. Vaccine equity is an expression of global solidarity & compassion (it sends a clear message: we are in this together!)

4. It’s the smart thing to do - widespread, global vaccine coverage offers the quickest path to ending the global pandemic & reaching global population immunity ("none of us will be safe until we are all safe")

5. Uncontrolled outbreaks (e.g. in USA, UK, Brazil and India) will generate more variants & mutant strains (disease anywhere is disease everywhere); uncontrolled outbreaks will also weaken health systems and make it harder to prevent future pandemics 

6. Nobody is insulated from the impact of a global recession. Our economy (wherever we live) is closely tied with the global economy; vaccination in all countries can end the pandemic & help prevent millions from being pushed into extreme poverty.

7. We cannot keep borders closed forever and the world cannot afford endless cycles of lockdowns & restrictions

8. We need to travel safely for work, pleasure & to see family/friends. If everyone is vaccinated, travel becomes easier and safer. If only privileged people in a few high-income countries are vaccinated, then only they can travel with vaccine passports.

9. Vaccine equity sets the path for future collaborations to keep the world safer (global health security, climate action, etc) & helps tackle inequality and paves the way for a fair, just society; vaccine equity is critical for ensuring peace and national security.

10. Everyone has a claim on vaccines - most vaccines were funded by tax-payer, public funds. Efforts for global vaccine equity are also a way of rich countries doing reparations for extracting resources from low & middle-income countries during the colonial era.

We are dangerously close to an era in which vaccinated and unvaccinated countries become a new layer of the have and have-nots, the colonizer and the colonized, the wealthy and the poor. We must resist this new apartheid and instead invest in a global vaccine solution that breaks from the last few centuries of exploitative power dynamics. Akin Olla

If these reasons appeal to you, please advocate for vaccine equity. Tweet about it, share this post, write to your local parliamentarians and leaders, write op-eds, blog posts or letters to editors, participate in signature campaigns (see this campaign by WHO) and show that you care! Thank you!

Cover image: UNICEF/Sibylle Desjardins

Post updated with new data on 8 July 2021

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