As evidenced by numerous articles in the world’s media, the vaccination policy pursued by Western countries reveals some of the lowest aspects of Western society. These include, in particular, a lack of compassion for others, the use of the vaccine race for purely political purposes, and chasing to benefit the owners of drug companies and protect the activities of Western business instead of pursuing the interests of basic human health and safety.
Washington’s “America First” slogan, for example, is implemented in the most obscene way for the reputation of the United States: The White House has made it clear that it will not share the vaccine with other countries until all US residents have been vaccinated. This also applies to neighboring Mexico, even though it is clear that the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in it is a threat to the United States itself.
But the concerns of other states, just like UN Secretary General António Guterres’ calls for “vaccine solidarity” and an end to “vaccine nationalism” by supporting vaccination not only at home, but also in the poorer countries, are clearly not on the agenda of the current White House administration. Meanwhile, it has already been repeatedly pointed out by the UN and the WHO that to defeat coronavirus it is necessary to crush it universally, and that in the long run it is in the interest of every country to maintain “vaccine equity”. After all, the world economy, even by incomplete estimates, could suffer a loss of $9 trillion due to lack of equal access to vaccines!
These deplorable results of vaccine policy are dividing European countries. Leaders of several EU countries are openly rejecting the Brussels vaccination plan as citizens become increasingly frustrated with their prospects of receiving health care, writes the British Daily Express.
Because Brussels was unable to present and implement a comprehensive vaccination program for all EU countries, individual countries had to start saving themselves on their own. Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland have already announced their plans to acquire the vaccine themselves and to enter into deals with Russia, China, and Israel. A growing number of EU states are preparing to join them. As a result, the vaccination rate in Hungary, one of the “dissident countries,” was higher than in Germany. Such actions are actively criticized by Berlin and Paris, but the facts speak against them.
Even the most liberal American TV station acknowledges the defeat of the left-liberal EU on the vaccine issue.
Yes, vaccinating the world against COVID-19 is one of the most important peacetime mobilization projects in recent history. Many countries have developed ambitious vaccination plans with elaborate sequences, but their successful implementation has been thwarted for a number of reasons. And it’s not just delays in vaccine delivery.
So, it’s been more than three months since the world’s first COVID-19 vaccination was given on December 8, 2020, but the hopes for a quick vaccination in many countries are now slowly vanishing. This is why thousands of people continue to die, while their lives could have been saved with a timely and effective vaccination policy. Delays in vaccine production and delivery have already led the European Union to threaten legal action and export restrictions. In addition, the expansion of production capacity through technology transfer to other companies and countries encounters emerging legal and technical obstacles.
The distortions already committed by Western countries in their vaccination policies against COVID-19 only exacerbate global inequalities. With the exception of Turkey, all the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have purchased more doses of vaccines than their populations require. Canada, for example, has enough doses to vaccinate its entire population almost six times. As Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), put it, such “vaccine apartheid” means that rich countries can afford to extend vaccination coverage to their populations and recover more quickly, leaving poor countries far behind.
Like the pandemic itself, which disproportionately affected ethnic minorities, women, immigrants, and the poor, the vaccination program against COVID-19 also exacerbates inequalities within the countries. It is no secret that the wealthy elite in some countries were able to get vaccinated earlier through the private sector, the black market, and “vaccination tourism”. Large businesses have started buying vaccines for employees or demanding that they be given priority as “life-support workers,” as Amazon and Uber, among others, attest. Additional discrimination could also result from “vaccination passports,” should they appear.
In recent days, a growing number of countries have been voicing their anguish over the chaos of COVID-19 vaccine production in Europe. And one of those affected is Japan, which is under-supplied with urgently needed vaccines. Japan’s particular concern is also due to the approaching timing of the Olympics, but today it is not clear whether Tokyo will be able to manage the situation, despite the reassuring statements of Japanese officials. Although the number of infected and dead in Japan is relatively small by world standards, it is nevertheless pointed out from Tokyo that there is absolutely no evidence of serious European involvement in the Japanese authorities preparing for such a responsible global event, which will take place amid the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Japanese Minister for Administrative Reform Taro Kono, the US Pfizer vaccine could be delivered to local governments by the end of June this year in sufficient quantities to provide all elderly people with double vaccination. However, end of June is too late for a country that is on the eve of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. The minister also added that in the European Union itself, which is the key to providing Japan with antiviral vaccines, vaccination is progressing slowly, for which the European organization has been harshly and justifiably criticized. But we should not forget that antiviral vaccination in Japan also depends on the approval of vaccine supplies by the European Union. However, given the recent protests in Italy, France, and several other EU countries regarding the blocking of European vaccine exports outside the EU, it cannot be ruled out that these restrictions and serious delays in vaccine shipments may affect Japan as well as several other non-European states, which, in turn, will not have the best effect on states’ participation in the upcoming Olympics in Japan.
Vaccines against COVID-19, already created in a number of countries, offer a welcome glimmer of hope after the bleak first year of the pandemic. But for this hope to translate into effective action, authorities in the EU, the US and beyond must be resourceful in mitigating the risks of delay, inequality and geopolitics.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.