Many Americans have become optimistic about “returning to normal” with the COVID-19 vaccine distribution, but other countries are still being ravaged by new cases and have few vaccines available.
According to NPR, half of all U.S. adults are fully vaccinated. It is ignorant to believe the pandemic is nearly over when cases amongst unvaccinated people are as high as they were in January. In comparison, only four percent of the developing world is vaccinated according to MSNBC. We are nowhere near normal.
In addition, countries like Malaysia, Nepal, India and Japan are still under emergency orders and are struggling to get a large enough number of vaccines. The U.S. has started shipping its surplus vaccine doses to other countries, but it still isn’t enough.
A large contributor to wealthy countries’ ability to hoard vaccines is the creation of contracts with vaccine manufacturers. These contracts have allowed countries to reserve vaccine doses. According to Bloomberg, some countries will have to wait until 2022 to get the chance to vaccinate their citizens. The U.S. is asking vaccine manufacturers to break their contract to distribute surplus doses.
While Canada has enough vaccines to cover 335 percent of its population, most African countries — with the exceptions of South Africa and Egypt — only have enough for five percent of their population. Despite the amount of vaccines Canada has reserved, only five percent of their population is vaccinated.
Many countries are waiting for vaccines while countless doses are sitting unused by wealthy countries. Instead of holding onto excess amounts of doses, vaccines should be reserved based on need and ability to distribute them. A manufacturer can only make so many doses at a time, which has led to poorer countries relying on developed countries to share doses.
This disparity can hurt the rest of the world by giving the vaccine time to mutate due to the delay in vaccinations, according to The Wall Street Journal. This is a risk the U.S. and Europe should not be willing to take.
Now is the time to discard our American individualism in favor of empathy. While we don’t have control over vaccine distribution, we can care for other global citizens by advocating for them. We should also be discouraging other Americans from international travel.