Vaccine nationalism: nations securing COVID-19 or other vaccinations at the expense of other nations, Collins Dictionary. Countries with a strong economy secure COVID -19 vaccine doses for their own nation, leaving the countries with poor economies with less access to vaccine doses for their own nation.
Although vaccine nationalism is not a new term, it is new to many people, and probably would still be an unknown term without the pandemic. Vaccine nationalism is not just new, but quite a controversial topic. Some people do not see the issue of their government securing their own vaccines for their own populations first as a problem. Others, such as Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization said it is a “catastrophic moral failure.” However, if COVID-19 exists somewhere, it exists everywhere, so helping all countries, rich or poor, achieve vaccination equity should be a priority.
There are mixed opinions on vaccine nationalism, as reflected in the comments by people from Riverside and the community. Grade 11 Alexis Forson, Riverside Youth Worker Monica Brochu expressed the perspective that, while the term is negative, it is logical for a country to take care of its own citizens first. “So, you know there’s kind of that point that we do have to be able to help ourselves in order to help other people also,” said Brochu. Forson added that each country needs to get themselves to a place where everyone is all safe before they help others. On the other hand, Michelle Kirk-Patrick, Port Coquitlam Shoppers Drug Mart Beauty Manager feels that how first-world nations are taking care of themselves, and slowly providing ‘left-overs’ for the global disadvantaged is both terrible and typical. “I don’t think it’s a good thing; I think it’s really bad, but I’m not surprised it is happening. It is not a way a civilized society functions.”
The poorest countries in the world struggle the most with COVID-19; they are being left behind again due to vaccine nationalism. It would seem from the global rollout of vaccines that wealth and power determine who ‘deserves’ to get the vaccine first. A study from February 8th, 2021, shows that low-income countries have reserved only 670 million doses where high-income countries have reserved 4.2 billion doses. The wealthy countries, like Canada, struggled with the pandemic as well. “We should help other countries but we’re also a country that was struggling with COVID-19 too,” said Brochu Riverside Youth Worker.
Vaccine nationalism does not harm just poor countries, it harms the rich and wealthy ones as well. The longer it takes to vaccinate everyone the more time COVID-19 has to mutate and create new variants. COVID-19 is constantly mutating resulting in new variants such as the Delta variant, which originated out of India, a country that due to the sheer size of its population needs an international effort to get the people vaccinated. A single dose of a vaccine is less effective at preventing the COVID-19 variants, especially the Brazil and South Africa variants.
Economically, vaccine nationalism has many negative impacts on wealthy and poor countries. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), May 2021 Economic outlook says “World GDP growth is expected to be 4.4% next year but global income will still be some USD 3 trillion less by end 2022 than was expected before the crisis hit.” Another study shows “the global economy stands to lose as much as US$9.2 trillion if governments fail to ensure developing economy access to COVID-19 vaccines” according to the International Chamber of Commerce. Although vaccine nationalism puts one’s country first, it negatively impacts all countries, regardless of wealth and power, socially, politically, and economically.
So, do the powers that be help the poor countries before the wealthy countries, the ones that are struggling the most, or should each country take care of themselves first? Vaccine equity protects everyone rich and poor. The pandemic will not end if there is COVID-19 somewhere as it is just a matter of time before it will, again, be everywhere.