Post Mortem

Covid mutant varients leveraged vaccine inequity apartheid

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 2/8/2021 1:42:22 PM IST

 In the year-2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) has been offering its medical expertise and efficacy advice with regard to COVID-19 to the nation-states to take the coronavirus more seriously. A year later, in2021, weare given to understand that about 220-million peoplehave lost their lives could perhaps be more if we take into account unaccounted ones and if this is added undoubtedlya huge number to the tune of many millions including those who are infected by the mutant virus variants. It is said that the mutant virus could emerge in diverse forms and in various ways. It is spreading swiftly in countries such as South Africa, England, USA, Brazil and Spain that are hit by the third waveor more severely.  

Those countries that have taken the advice and expertise of WHO more seriously could contain the virus. Others who went on their own waysdefying the coronavirus by flexing their idiocy and arrogance had to pay the price. As a result, many millions had to lose their lives and millions were infected and suffered. COVID-19, has pushed many pharmaceutical corporationsand vaccine production companies to the fore to develop vaccines. As a result, some brands have come out “successfully” with variations involved in the production of millions of individual vaccinesfor the populace to contain the impact of the virus. In desperate conditions, it is obvious that everyone rushes to take advantage by maximizing profits.

We are in a different scenario and therefore, prudent use of the tools that we have before us will enhance the possibilities of saving lives and also containing the damages the mutant variant could inflict.However, a question that arise is: Are we going to use those tools fairly, ethically and equitably. We need to reckon with a fact that as of now virus is on its stride winning the ‘war’ by perennially inflicting lethal blows with series of waves and variants. More we try to mute the virus;it sprouts that makes us to wonder how long should we to live with this virus.

Developing vaccines is certainly a game changer. Coronavirus takes diverse variants that pushesus to get engaged furthering and advancing the game-changer as the scenario changes.  At this juncture, a question surfacesis that are we going to be fully engaged for years in developing vaccines as coronavirus keeps changing its variants?Wearing facial mask is going to be somewhat a ‘permanent feature’ (surgical mask, not the ones previously recommended); avoiding social, entertainment, travel and sport engagements; refrain from congregating in religious functions and festivities where hundreds and thousands of people.

Exactly a year ago, in January, 2020, the Director-General of WHO warned the global community by issuing a few precautionary measures which many nations did not followearlier. After a year, in January, 2021, the chief of WHO exhorted the comity of nations that we were blessed with windows of opportunities as we developed tools that could be used preventing virus by furthering the preliminary data, certainly not replicating, but advancing. Accordingly, many brands of vaccines are being introduced. Those countries with facilities likeChinas, India, Russia, America, Europe, Britainalong with pharmaceutical corporations jumped into the fray of developing vaccine.

WHO chief once again warmed the comity of nations in January, 2021.This time,the message was different. In his briefing he said that it was a catastrophic failure the ways with which vaccines have been distributed. Those rich countries managed to get vaccines in millions and the poor countries are struggling to vaccinate their people, particularly who are vulnerable and aged. For instance, just 25 individual vaccines were distributed to Sub-Saharan Africa. This reveals the fact that the poor countries suffer from inaccessibility and inequitable distribution of vaccines If this trend continues, it is believed that only 3 percent of the population would be vaccinated in the poor countries by mid-2021.

Equity ought to be one of the fundamental and governing principles of any nation or a society. Contrary to this principle, inequity is now the operating principle. Before it used to be amassing wealth on the basis of demand, urgency and needs.Exploitation of resources and catastrophes triggers inequity, but now we are into another gambit vis-à-vis vaccine inequity. In this way, vaccine has leveraged nationalism. Those countries that have control over vaccine now are into vaccine populism protecting and monitoring their borders, so that vaccine will not be smuggled out. In addition, the gap is growing bigger and bigger between supply and demand—as demand is more than supply which automatically gives rise to escalation of price for vaccine vis-à-vis inflation. 

For example, out of 200 vaccines that are in the market, only 63 of them are clinically developed. In recent times, we have heard of the efficacy of the vaccines ranging from 60-plus percent to 80-plus percent. Above all, we keep hearing a number of things such as side-effects leading to death. Nonetheless, in order to hasten quick distribution to those countries who cannot afford is a moral thing to do. Further, to be effective, fair, ethical and moral, after the vulnerable and elderly gets vaccinated, vaccines are to be sent to other countries that cannot afford equitably distributed to similar countries that have no access and purchasing power.

As of now, two-third world is concentrating on just 15-20 per cent of its population, while on the other, the rich one-third world is concentrating on the majority of its populace.The one-third world embarked on vaccinating the elderly, weak, and the vulnerable and moved on vaccinating others, while the two-third world is still in the process of completing the front line work force and elderly populace. It will take months to complete this segment and then move on to others for which millions of dollars are required.In the two-third world there are poorest countries struggling to meet both the ends. 

We live in a world of inequity, wherein the rich with their economic power can meet any catastrophic situations, whereas the poor by being poor become the victims. We live not in a level playing ground – win – win situation which is not there, but an illusion – a rhetoric. The poor and the hapless vanish from the face of the earth, if such catastrophes occur frequently. In such a setting what is important is the global solidarity. It is not by building walls and employing vaccine nationalism as that of EU which is a classic example.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the EU on 29th January, 21. The EU signed a deal for 300 million doses in August, 2020, while UK ordered 100 million doses and signed its deal in May,2020. Due to the manufacturing and delivery problems EU says it should not receive fewer doses just because UK signed a contract earlier.However, we are racing against time. Everyone is running after coronavirus vaccine. Virus mutating is a combination of a wave of mutations. 

If the situation continues, we will be living in the midst of coronavirus. Virus could perhaps be endemic and the period of its presence no one knows because it is taking multiple waves. No country on its own can tide over the situation. Vaccine nationalism, building barriers, using the current pandemic for populism and personal political gains at the cost of many lives by all means should be defied. 

We live in a world with diverse races, creedal expressions, classes, cultures, customary habits, traditions and many differences, and yet as manifests one global humanity.  No one knows how long virus would be in our midst, but should be prepared to face and to live with it not building walls and barriers but looking at the world as a whole. As one global humanity we need to evolve new ways of navigating the virus as citizens of the world.

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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