MEXICO CITY – In recent weeks, Britain and the United States have seen with relief their citizens how to start getting vaccinated COVID-19[feminine[feminine – But in much of Latin America, Africa, and much of Asia, the news has had a mixture of resignation and anger.
For many people in the developing world, there is still no light at the end of the tunnel.
These countries are struggling to access the long-awaited vaccines after rich countries set aside enough doses to inoculate their populations several times.
“International solidarity must grow,” Martha Delgado, the Mexican official in charge of negotiating the country’s vaccine contracts, told BuzzFeed News. Echoing the concerns of the developing world, he warned that there will be no end to the global pandemic until everyone has access to the vaccine. He wants the United States and other Western countries to think outside their own borders and their immediate needs. “No one will be safe until everyone is vaccinated,” he said.
Canada, for example, has pre-ordered at least four times the amount it needs to vaccinate its 38 million citizens. The UK has secured enough to cover almost three times its population. The European Union and the United States could immunize almost all of its inhabitants twice the number of doses of vaccines they have reserved. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the world’s population will not have access to a vaccine until at least 2022, according to the medical journal BMJ.
So far, some of the poorest countries that have been most affected by the virus have only orders to cover a small fraction of their population. Peru, where a dramatic shortage of oxygen left the country on the brink earlier this year, and El Salvador, where more than one in four people fall below the poverty line, have pre-ordered doses for less. of half its population, according to a New York Times newspaper analysis.
Countries that preordain, but have no political influence or economic power, will have to wait longer than the great powers. Mexico, which according to its government, has secured contracts with various pharmaceutical companies to inoculate 116 million of its 126 million citizens against COVID-19, says it will not end the operation at least until March 2022.
After Delgado told the BBC that “at least in Mexico we have the money to buy vaccines”, Xavier Tello, an expert on health policies in Mexico City, he retweeted a message related to the interview that said “I can have the money to buy a Tesla; but if someone has already paid, I’ll probably have to be on the waiting list. “
Many in Mexico say the country can’t wait much longer. On paper, the country has the fourth highest death toll, just behind the United States, Brazil and India, but the official number (118,598) is likely to be much lower than the actual number of casualties. There have been at least 60,000 more “excess”Deaths in addition to these during 2020.
And Mexico’s health care workers say they are stretching to the limit with PPE shortages, exhaustion, and pain. There are more than 2,250 doctors, nurses and medical staff he died, according to government figures. Some, with almost three times the population of Mexico 1,500 health workers have died in the US.
Who gets how many vaccines and when has opened an unprecedented ethical debate. Should governments prioritize their own citizens? Should the first vaccines be allocated to a certain proportion of the population in each country? Should initial doses be given to people at risk around the world before distributing them among those without comorbidities?
Arthur Caplan, head of the Medical Ethics Division at NYU Medical School, said he advocates in part the first school of thought: nationalists against the vaccine. Countries that can afford it should be cared for first, “a little more to make sure,” in case current vaccines only offer immunity for a limited time and reinforcement is needed in the near future.
But when making a more ethical decision, Caplan said that once a state has vaccinated its health care workers, older adults and people with pre-existing conditions, it should move to inoculate the same population in other countries before vaccinating. young and short adults. -Risk population.
COVID-19 has wreaked so much havoc on the world that equity is not part of decision-making when it comes to distributing vaccines across countries.
“Rich countries are in such bad shape that they’re not thinking about it,” Caplan told BuzzFeed News.
While the second option – assigning vaccines to an equal number of people in each country – may seem more equitable, it may end up ineffective. Ignacio Mastroleo, Argentine expert in medical ethics i part of the group of ethics experts and COVID-19 of the World Health Organization, points out that, for example, giving Peru and Poland the same amount of vaccines would not take into account that the virus has killed 11,600 more people in the world. first than in the second (their populations) are 32 million and 38 million, respectively).
This option “is not sensitive to the needs of the population,” Mastroleo said, adding that the poverty rate in Peru is ten times higher than in Poland.
Mastroleo said that if there is one silver lining, it is that, unlike the 2009 swine flu pandemic, this time there are efforts by international organizations to support equality in access to vaccines. One of these mechanisms, co-founded by the WHO and known as COVAX, is a global set of vaccines to which the poorest countries will have access. But the scheme will only supply less than 20% of the population of 92 low- and middle-income countries.
Unequal access to vaccines is likely to occur not only between countries but also within them, leaving millions of vulnerable people defenseless against the virus. On Monday, Colombian President Ivan Duque announced during a interview with Blu Radio, that there are no plans to vaccinate undocumented people, saying that if the country did, a “stampede” of immigrants in Colombia could be created. There are currently 1.7 million Venezuelans living in Colombia and about 55% of them have no citizenship. Most of them fled an economic and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.
The relief of millions of people may not come until the end of 2021 or even later, when countries that have accumulated excess vaccines will sell or donate to poorer states, according to Delgado.
“That’s the wrong strategy,” Delgado said. Relief will first come to the world at large when people stop “seeking their own salvation.”