A lot of people say that the coronavirus pandemic has ruined three hundred and sixty-six days (2020 was a leap year) by throwing us all into the deep dark four walls of our home. No social interaction, no hangouts, no physical touches, and empty roads. This year came by as a shock to the human race. Something that we did not anticipate or expect in the wildest of our dreams. But honestly, if you would ask me, I would say 2020 was a year of change, a year of introspection, a year of realization and intimidation, a year where we all learned to be a little more grateful and a little less obnoxious. But over everything, the pandemic brought out into the limelight and salience, the disastrous inequitable distribution of resources and income among countries and among people of a country. A problem that is yearning for our epistemic attention and a problem that we have been avoiding for ages.
Something on the same lines comes into highlight when we talk about the ongoing vaccination processes. It shall be highly incorrect to say that all the countries across the globe have equal access to the vaccines and are on an equitable scale in the process. The divisions, inequalities and governance problem in many countries have become a cause of tension in the vaccination process just like in other matters of economic or social relevance. However, the sad part is that this time it will cost lives.
Well, one such case comes from the countries in Latin America. Let’s dig deeper.
Today, the Chilean government inoculates some 100,000 Chileans aged 60 to 64 per week against covid-19 disease. The country has already vaccinated nearly 20% of its adults and is looking forward to covering 80% of its total population of 19 million people by the end of June 2021. All these preparations have made Chile stand as the sixth-best performer in the world. The jabs were first applied to the health workers followed by other applicants in strictly descending order of age. The country takes into account people from a different year each day.
The entire inoculation process in Chile is in extreme contrast to that in the other countries of Latin America where jabbing has barely started. Mexico has jabbed only 2% of its population as of March 1st, making its count go way below the world average of 3.5%. On the other hand, Brazil has a vaccination rate of 4% which is above the world average but is stressed due to the new P.1 variant of the virus. This variant is more communicable and poses an added danger to the prior natural immunity. The health secretaries of the country’s 27 state governments announced that Brazil is battling “the worst phase” of the pandemic right now.
The primary hindrance in the roll-out process is the worldwide shortage of vaccines on the account of unequal distribution. The Western drug firms have been accused of supplying the drug mainly to their home markets and ignoring the demands of the rest.
Countries like Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico have not been able to readily source the active ingredients and vials due to the economic instability as well as government fumbles. Ernesto Ortiz of the Global Health Institute at Duke University pointed out that at a time when the African Union made bulk pre-purchases to ensure their supplies, Latin America lacked regional co-ordination. The countries raced against each other instead of forming a consortium. And, this explains the success of Chile in the roll-out process. Chile took two right steps in the race:
- It welcomes several pharma companies to host their vaccine trials in the country and encouraged them for early delivery in the mid-2020s.
- It has maintained an up-to-date digital database of its immunisation programme.
Other governments have found it hard and complex to secure their procurement negotiations. Clare Wenham, a health expert at the London School of Economics, thinks that different vaccines, priority groups and distribution plans could further complicate and infuriate the economies of Latin America.
This patchiness in inoculation has its roots related to political manipulation and political diplomacy.
A leading example of this could be Brazil. The country is in a situation of haphazard, primarily because Jair Bolsonaro’s federal government had failed to accept the seriousness of the virus while the Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador had failed to give out control of the vaccination programme to the states by seizing it away from them. Obrador’s government decided to vaccinate the 333 “highly marginalised” municipalities first. Teachers and rural areas have been prioritized over nurses and cities, both at a higher risk and with a higher case count. The appropriate vaccination queue has been skipped due to political reasons. The country is expecting an important election in the month of June.
Meanwhile last month, Peru witnessed resignations from its health and foreign ministers after it had emerged that they were being secretly benefited from Sinopharm’s sample doses. Martín Vizcarra was also expelled from his duties as a president in the month of November. Similar things have been happening in Argentina and Ecuador which saw their health ministers leave on account of indistinguishable scandals.
Well, honestly, these political crises do no good for the credibility of democracy in countries like these but play against the vaccination programmes which are the dire need of the situation. The political instability not only slows the vaccination pace but also incites a hesitation around the same in the minds of the common people. The same is proven by a poll result in Pure that suggests a rise in vaccine hesitancy since last August.
Latin America currently has access to vaccines mainly from China and Russia. These countries have been quicker to deliver the vaccine doses to the above-mentioned nations than their Western rivals; perhaps because of their own economic and political interest that lies in this region. The republic of China has invested enormous amounts of capital in several Latin American countries while Russia is looking after making a comeback in the Latin American region from which it had almost disappeared after the cold war. Now, making a re-entry as a benign guise.
What we are really forgetting that vaccination is not an activity that will extend for a month or two. It is a long run marathon and not a sprint.
According to the data given by Duke University, the Latin American nations have ordered as many as 550 million doses of Western vaccines. The giganticism of vaccine dependence on the western firms can be analysed with the fact that in contrast to 550 million doses from the west, Latin America has ordered only 213 million from China and 72 million from Russia.