Skewed Vaccine Distribution Prolonging Pandemic
Skewed Vaccine Distribution Prolonging Pandemic
  • Reporter Won John
  • 승인 2022.05.02 22:59
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▲Image of a vaccine shot / Pexels
▲Image of a vaccine shot / Pexels


While mass vaccination of the population along with herd immunity has been cemented as the most effective solution against the pandemic, many impoverished regions around the world still suffer from low vaccine distribution rates and lack of storage infrastructure. As of mid-April, the African continent still has an overall vaccination rate of around 20%, contrary to rates of over 70% in North America and Europe. War-torn countries like Yemen have even less vaccines, with less than 2.1% of the population inoculated, and civilians having to travel as much as 20 hours through battle-raging regions to get a shot.
Vaccination rates in developed countries might not seem as high as one might think, but the lack of total vaccination stems from totally different reasons than that of underdeveloped countries. Citizens of affluent nations mostly avoid taking shots because of fear of detrimental side effects, distrust of institutional policies, and rebellious attitudes. These people could potentially get a booster shot if they wanted to at any time, but for various reasons they chose not to. On the other hand, the populace of developing societies are deprived of the possibility of a vaccination.
The climates in these indigent nations and logistical difficulties in supplying the vaccine shots may have taken a big part in these shortages, but the biggest factor is that global pharmaceutical vaccine distribution plans have excluded places like Africa from its main plans. Large vaccine-producing pharmaceutical firms prioritized large economies in their supply chains, and wealthy nations gladly lapped up more doses than they could use. This resulted in the current skewed balance of vaccination rates, and an inefficient system in which rich nations throw away unused shots and poor nations scramble for the remaining scraps.
There have been some attempts by various organizations to mediate this imbalance, such as the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) program, backed by the World Health Organization (WHO). The COVAX program is a worldwide initiative which aims to provide low-to-middle-income countries equitable access to vaccine reserves using international logistical and financial cooperation. While COVAX has seen some success in its work, delivering its 1 billionth dose in January and raising billions of dollars of funds, many factors have been holding it back. Rich countries hoarding piles of vaccine doses in fits of “vaccine nationalism” is one of the major reasons, outbreaks closing borders and supply chains, and pharmaceutical companies withholding technology and licenses from the public has all contributed to the slowdown. 
Even if there are enough vaccines for people in poorer countries, efforts to just ship tons of vaccines at the doorsteps of nations might not be enough. For wealthier economies with pre-existing infrastructure systems, sufficient supply of doses is enough to ensure high vaccination rates, but this is not the case for less developed economies. Low-performing infrastructure systems simply cannot meet the demand of a large-scale logistical project like mass vaccine distribution. Hence, these systems have been creaking since the start of the pandemic, and health-care workers have been taking the brunt of the blow. Countries like Uganda and Nigeria have already seen strikes from health-care workers who have been overworked and underpaid during the pandemic.
Low vaccination rates in places half a world away may not seem like a problem in the short term, but it is precisely the reason the pandemic has been prolonged repeatedly. Regions without sufficient inoculation give free reign for the virus to rampage and produce many variations of mutations. The most recent dominant variants, the Delta variant and the Omicron variant both came from regions with low vaccination rates. The Delta variant emerged from the poorly managed Indian subcontinent, and while the Omicron variant was first identified in South Africa, experts believe it was first transmitted in the impoverished Sub-Saharan Africa region.
Experts agree global cooperation is the only way we will prematurely eliminate this virus, excluding the possibility we wait until every person catches the disease. A short-sighted person may view hoarding as a favorable initiative for the nation, but in a globalized economy, surviving alone is difficult. As Joe Biden, president of the U.S., put it in a virtual summit, “To beat the pandemic here, we must beat it everywhere.”