NEW YORK – A sedentary lifestyle is quite antithetical to human nature. That is why the world anxiously awaits a return to some form of normalcy after one full year of intense battle with a lethal microbe called coronavirus. Meanwhile, while the world hunkered down, big Pharmas have been playing footsie with the rich nations, making underhand deals at the expense of the health and lives of the rest of the world.
Their quest for profit over lives has been uncovered even to the point that their winks are seen by the blind. Yes, some countries were hit harder than others, countries such as the United States, Brazil, Italy, UK, etc. These were nations with a disproportionate number of deaths resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other countries. Notwithstanding this fact, the entire world economy took a nosedive, with many also having it worse than others. This varying aftershock across the globe resulted in a severe economic downturn and loss of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the struggling countries making their already fragile state franticly in a financial tailspin.
Expectedly, all nations would like nothing more than to return to normal.
But what has become apparent in the last few months is far from scenic. Big vaccine-making pharmaceutical companies are shamelessly supplying the rich nations with more vaccines in a relatively short period than they need. While at the same time, the rest of the world suffers in wait. The New York Times recently reported that the United States has over 30 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in their West Chester, Ohio facility idling and waiting for approval. Meanwhile, other nations that had already approved the vaccine are still struggling with deep shortages. This is in addition to the 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the administration recently ordered.
Notably, these vaccines’ accumulations are not for immediate dispensing but for a potential future shortage. So “vaccine hoarding,” though erroneous postulation, is the United States’ new foreign policy.
This is nothing short of a ridiculous stockpile that serves no long-term benefits for anybody.
For example, as at the time of writing of this opinion, the United States is virtually vaccinating one person every second while nations like Mali, Mauritania, and Gabon are yet to administer a single shot according to the coronavirus administered data collected by The New York Times.
“We want to be oversupplied and overprepared,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday, indicating to the world that the President wanted contingencies in the event of any unforeseen issues with the existing production timeline.” This was a recent statement from the Whitehouse amid widespread global scarcity. Imagine the absurdity.
Just Recently, UNAIDS reported that rich nations, including the U.S., U.K., and E.U., are blocking a proposal by over 100 developing countries to discuss the inequity in vaccine distributions. According to the world body, the discussions were meant to “override the monopolies held by pharmaceutical companies and allow an urgently needed scale-up in the production of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to ensure poorer countries get access to the doses they desperately need.” So not only are the rich countries stockpiling vaccines, they are actively blocking the poor ones from getting the life-saving medicine.
Let’s pause and allow that to sink in.
Just as if their already rakishly and duplicitous behavior was not contemptible enough, these same privileged countries with the exploitative wealth they now flaunt at the face of the poor nations they have fleeced for centuries, are now pushing for an implementation of a global “vaccine passport.” According to Universal Weather and Aviation, an organization that helps transport evacuees and deliver critical supplies to victims in disasters, China, the EU, and other wealthy nations either already require a vaccine passport or are considering it. The EU is now on the verge of testing its “Digital Green Pass.” The report stated.
Put differently; in addition to our already dreary required passport booklet, we must now have a passport to show that we have been vaccinated before we can travel.
And which countries are obstructing the poor ones from acquiring vaccines while they get theirs in truckloads? You guessed right—the rich and powerful.
So, the poor countries get denied needed vaccines, and now their citizens will not be allowed to travel because they are not vaccinated.
A surreptitious and perfectly orchestrated plan to keep the poor in their space.
Call it “vaccine nationalism” or other politically correct terms if you like; the reality to many developing nations is that this is discrimination on steroids. Let’s call it what it is.
Many of the West’s nouveau riche nations seem to have forgotten that the world is no longer as big as it used to be. We are now more closely interconnected. What you ignore and fail to confront outside your shores will soon hunt you within your shores. At least this was what the 43rd president of the United States believed when he took his fight against terrorists in the early 2000s. “We will fight them over there, so we do not have to face them here,” so he stated when he embarked on his “war against terrorism.” No lesson learned from there.
If the West thinks that hoarding life-saving medicine such as vaccines from the poor countries helps their strategic aim, then it is time to rethink such wrongheadedness because their harm is assured in the long term.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has already predicted that if the rich nations continue their vaccine monopoly, the global economy will suffer losses exceeding $9 trillion, a sum greater than the annual output of Japan and Germany combined. And the primary absorber of this loss will be the United States, Canada, and Britain.
Now is the time to reverse course because “a stitch in time saves nine.” If they do not, assuredly, wealth loss may not be the only thing they will have to grapple with when the tempestuous storm begins to rage.
An obstinate determination to pursue a disastrous policy is not in the general good of all. Thus, the wealthy nation’s ‘vaccine passport’ idea is discriminatory, chauvinistic, and wholly offensive. It must not be implemented until vaccines are equally made available to all.
LaBode Obanor is a social justice advocate and a legal scholar at Concord Law at Purdue University Global.