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As the manufacturing and distribution of various COVID-19 vaccines is steadily taking place, many Americans, including myself, are anxiously awaiting the relief of a double-dose in their communities. However, while the U.S. has been guaranteed 200 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by July 31, 2021, many other countries have not been so lucky. Since any successful COVID-19 vaccine is in hot demand and thus worth a lot of money, the companies are currently churning out these effective vaccines on their own, refusing to open their license to other vaccine manufacturers that could greatly increase production and distribution rates. While this is common practice in the medical world, right now is not the time to place corporate interests above the needs of the people. The fact of the matter is that the coronavirus will not lessen on its own and, as more and more people die every day, every vaccine counts.
Although the U.S. has surpassed all other countries’ total Covid-related deaths, that does not mean that other countries have not been devastated as well. According to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, the global death count has now topped two million since the start of the pandemic, with more than 93.5 million cases worldwide. Quick distribution of eligible COVID-19 vaccines to the most at-risk populations is vital if we hope to combat the virus and protect those we love.
In medicine, vaccines are almost unanimously hailed as one of the most successful and cost-effective preventative measures against the spread of infectious diseases, second only to the provision of sanitized water. Despite this, many people in the U.S. have grown overly comfortable with the presence of vaccine preventable diseases as they are today, as well as suspicious of vaccines in general. Let me make one thing clear: this mindset comes from a world of privilege. Rubella and measles have been effectively eliminated in the U.S. thanks to wide-spread vaccination efforts, but the same cannot be said for other countries, such as Madagascar, Ukraine, and Nigeria. According to the CDC, rubella is the leading cause of preventable birth defects, and measles causes approximately 568 deaths worldwide every day, most of which are children. Developing countries are already greatly disadvantaged when it comes to vaccination rates because the time, resources, and money needed to wipe out these diseases on a global scale are not a priority to nations, such as the U.S., that could get this done.
The World Health Organization was created by the United Nations in 1948 to coordinate public health policies and work with disadvantaged groups to provide healthcare and other support systems for those who are already ill or at risk of becoming ill. It is thanks to the WHO and its partners that developing and low-income countries have some hope for receiving COVID-19 vaccines in 2021. They are currently pushing forward with an initiative called COVAX that is focused on supporting vaccination production and dosages for participating countries. Now, the biggest hurdle is finances. To successfully implement their plan, the WHO needs another $28.2 billion total, of which $4.3 billion is needed now to fund critical areas of work.
As for why we should finance relief efforts for these countries facing severe consequences, human decency should be at the top of the list. The U.S. prides itself for being a strong, wealthy, advanced nation, yet we cause devastation all around the world and turn a blind eye to the suffering others are facing right now. Personally, I don’t care about the economics of the situation. I don’t care if the U.S. has to cut its defense budget or raise taxes if it means that we can be part of a plan to protect millions that are disadvantaged almost entirely due to Eurocentric conflict and imperialism. So what if we don’t get money back from this ‘investment’? The desire to live and enjoy life is not a uniquely American trait; it is a human trait, and we are all humans, regardless of nationality. That said, although the livelihoods of millions of people should be enough motivation for world leaders and wealthy individuals to fund this crucial action plan, in the end, it comes down to personal gain for these people. For this reason, the WHO places great emphasis on the economic opportunities that will come from supporting other nations. If COVAX is properly funded and therefore successful in its mission, every country will benefit. Keeping the coronavirus in check will be a huge relief, and the money that will flow back into the markets is more than worth whatever is spent in the meantime.
According to a recent report by the Eurasia Group, “Global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines [is] estimated to generate economic benefits of at least $153 billion in 2020 – 21, and $466 billion by 2025, in [ten] major economies.” All countries plagued by the coronavirus are suffering financial consequences, so, hopefully, these statistics predicting a quick economic recovery will be enough to motivate others to assist the WHO’s project. So far, ten major countries have contributed $2.4 billion to the cause. According to the WHO website, “[the] United Kingdom [committed] just over $1 billion, and Germany, Canada, Japan and France [committed] $618 million, $290 million, $229 million and $147 million, respectively.” While greatly beneficial, these funds are far from enough, and it is the responsibility of those in political and economic positions of power to assist in humanity’s common interest. In this time of need, the U.S. should be contributing just as much money as these other major countries towards the COVAX initiative, aiming to protect both millions of people and dozens of national economies. At what cost do human lives stop mattering? The U.S. needs to protect the world we are a part of if we wish to be a country worthy of respect and patriotism.
Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus