A race of who gets it first?
It was always going to be the question that would matter the most! Folks, the good news is finally here. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines have been given a green light by the UK and the USA healthcare bodies. Mass immunization programs are likely to roll out in the second half of December 2020. But even as the vaccine vials are carefully packaged and shipped to the bidder countries, some key questions are nagging at the back of everyone’s mind. The first world has the vaccine, what about the third world? And even in the first world, is prioritization going to happen, or is too unjustified? What should be the role of global health bodies in this regard? In this discussion, we answer these and many other questions while keeping socio-economic disparity in corona times in our minds. How will socio-economic factors determine a world post-COVID-19? Well, let us find out!
First world countries have almost won it!
Like we have mentioned already, the United Kingdom and the United States of America are about to start their mass SARS-CoV-2 immunization programs. It is expected that the European countries will not lag by much in this race, which makes absolute sense, given the chaos the novel coronavirus has created. Apart from Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine, Russia has also come up with a COVID-19 vaccine. So, with these many options available, one can hope for 2021 in which at least the citizens of first world countries will be immune to the deadly virus that has disrupted the entire world order.
Where do third world countries stand?
On the flip side of the coin, it is a scene much like the one from a doomsday movie. The citizens of third world nations are still waiting for their governments to complete the decision-making process. Once that is completed, we will know for sure, which country is going for which vaccine? Take the example of Pakistan, which has set aside $150 million for vaccine shopping without one particular manufacturer in mind. South Asian and African countries will have to depend on international aid and funding more than their own financial account for the novel coronavirus vaccine.
Socioeconomic disparities aren’t a myth!
Compare the two worlds which we have just described briefly for you. Free vaccine shots for everyone in a mass immunization program vs. paying thousands to get two mandatory vaccine shots. This is just an example of how the rich will get it easy while the poor might not even get it, forget the struggle bit! Speaking with more emphasis on the collapsing healthcare systems that the third world countries have, rolling out mass immunization programs for their citizens will not be possible for the countries that have a clear line demarcating the difference between upper and lower class. Hence, one cannot be naïve enough not to expect that poverty and low income are not going to hamper the dream of global herd immunity against the novel coronavirus.
Is prioritization justified?
The discussion is moving more towards the socio side of things now. When we say prioritization in a mass vaccination program, we are asking questions like which segment of the society should get the vaccine first? Should it be elder citizens? Should it be kids? But of late, keeping the Black Lives Matter campaign in perspective, one feels that racial prioritization is the biggest challenge that needs to be addressed immediately. In countries where ethnic heterogeneity prevails, deciding which segment of the population gets the shots first is going to be quite a challenge. The fact that the virus has affected different populations differently complicates the situation further.
The ethical dilemma that vaccines are posing
Just a quick word on an ethical dilemma that is surfacing in the background of this discussion, the NHS of the UK has made it clear that the healthcare workers will not get the coronavirus vaccine on a preferential basis. Should or should not the healthcare professionals get the vaccine on an immediate basis? After all, they are the frontline fighters in this battle. But then again, what is more important? Saving the masses or making sure that those who are saving us don’t get infected themselves? Well, well! We guess the answer to this question really depends on the purchasing capacity of every country. Only after purchasing the initial batch of vaccines can further decisions be made.
Are these vaccines really for everyone?
Well, we are not going to discuss any shady conspiracies here, but one must question the efficacy of the vaccines made by different pharmaceutical companies, with regards to all segments of the population in mind. Some key points to keep in mind here. Firstly, the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, which is being hailed as the most suitable candidate for the entire world, is an mRNA vaccine, the first-ever RNA vaccine! Secondly, the sequencing analyses have shown that the novel coronavirus has mutated a fair bit as well. In that case, the vaccine for one strain of virus might not be suitable for another strain found in a different country. For example, experts are of the opinion that for the Pakistani population, the Chinese CanSinoBio vaccine is more suitable as compared to the vaccines developed by Pfizer or Moderna.
Role of international bodies in socio-economic impact of covid 19
The WHO, FDA, INGOs, etc., etc. have a massive role to play in the events of the next six months or so. Even more important is the role of institutions like GAVI, which refers to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations. It is the platform that encourages public-private partnerships to make sure that vaccines are ACTUALLY for all! For countries like Pakistan, the platform is of extreme importance.
Conclusion – socio-economic disparity in corona times
It is wrap up time in this debate, but we do hope that there was something new that you learned about how things stand at the moment in the COVID-19 vaccination race. Remember that before anything else, we all are humans and that we all are equal. So, it follows without even saying it that the novel coronavirus vaccine should be for all as well, no matter how socio-economic inequalities and differences influence us!