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Vaccine nationalism must end

Nationalism has long been an obstacle in the battle against pressing global issues such as climate change, human rights violations and as 2020 has proven; global pandemics. If nations were not so concerned with selfish interests and instead focussed on working towards global cooperation, the 2.06 million worldwide coronavirus deaths could have been averted. However, those mistakes have already been made. Nations must now come together to ensure the responsible rollout of a coronavirus vaccine globally. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently claimed the world is on the brink of a ‘catastrophic moral failure’ due to vaccine nationalism: only 25 doses have been administered to poor countries in comparison to 39 million in the world’s richest countries. This statistic is abhorrent and depicts the dangers of nationalist ideology permeating global issues; people should not be denied the right of health and safety, based on the part of the world they were born in. Despite this disturbing data, there still appears to be very little global cooperation on the issue, with the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reporting that rich countries have ordered 53% of the vaccines available, whilst only making up 14% of the world’s population. This monopolisation of vaccines, by the world’s richest countries must come to an end and we should look to aiding the efforts by the Covax programme – which is a collaboration between the WHO and other organisations, who seek to ensure worldwide vaccine administration. Covax has secured 700 million doses according to the BMJ, however, this is only enough to vaccinate 10% of the poorest 67 countries in the world. 

If moral responsibility alone is not a motivating factor for the world’s richest nations; it has been reported by Rand Corporation that the failure to ensure worldwide vaccinations could cost the US, UK, the EU, and other wealthy countries up to $119 billion a year. Until there is a widely accessible vaccine, social distancing measures will carry on affecting key industries of the global economy negatively. Therefore, in order to prevent moral embarrassment and economic loss the UK and other countries should make it a priority to ensure equitable access to the vaccine around the world. 

Further, the UK must assess the risk to its economy, as the tourism industry is a key contributor to our overall GDP, making up 10% of it. Therefore, the effort the government is putting into ensuring Britain becomes the world’s leading vaccine administrator may be stymied by the lack of worldwide vaccinations. We are a nation that depends on global services and travel, so we need a functioning global travel industry for this to be successful, otherwise we will never recover from the consequences of Covid. With this being said, Matt Hancock has claimed the UK to be the world’s leading financial supporter of a global vaccine rollout, however with 4 million vaccines given out in the UK and only 25 in the world’s poorest countries, it is evident more needs to be done to aid the worldwide vaccine effort.

The start of 2021 has seen the rollout of vaccines become synonymous with nationalist aims, this is unacceptable. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen little global cooperation and therefore we have faced the consequences of a seemingly unassailable virus. This should have been enough to teach us the dangers of retreating to our little nationalist corners. The worldwide administration of the vaccine should have been a key priority; however, it appears the world’s nations have not learnt any lessons from this pandemic and if anything, have decided rampant vaccine nationalism is their main priority. The dangers of nationalism have never been clearer than now, amid a global pandemic; we can no longer allow the selfish interests of states to impede necessary global response. 

Image: Christian Emmer via Discover Society