The Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the world with impunity over the past three years, bringing to light its fair share of hard pills to swallow. After that terrible trend of celebrities suggesting that everyone was in the same boat it is abundantly clear that health inequalities ensure that some of us enjoy a well-sheltered gin-palace while others struggle to stay afloat on driftwood, if you will forgive the extended metaphor.
One of the clearest examples of this inequality is the distribution of the various Covid-19 vaccines. In October 2021 the WHO posited a 70% vaccination target for mid-2022. Many countries have been unable to come even remotely close, with others steaming far ahead. The Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that if equitable access to vaccines, among other things, could be achieved, Covid-19 might cease to be a global health emergency. In low-income countries just 21% of the population has received one dose of a vaccine, compared to a striking 81% in higher income countries, as reported by the New York Times in July 2022.
Africa has the slowest vaccination rate of any continent with 25.5% of the population at the single dose stage. The continent produces only 1% of the vaccines it requires. Data from February 2022 revealed that 0.05% of Burundi’s population and 0.4% of the Democratic Republic of Congo had received one dose. To dredge the boat metaphor back up, these small and unseaworthy vaccination boats are dangerous for the whole fleet.
Considering factors that affect vaccination rates consistently brings war and civil unrest to the fore. This is exemplified by conflict-stricken countries like Yemen and South Sudan, with vaccination rates of 2%. Issues aren’t specific to these countries, however; global vaccine inequality is exacerbated by vaccine nationalism, stockpiling, and accessibility issues.