I got my first vaccination jab on Monday. The experience was entirely positive. I arrived at a sunny Citywest Complex in Dublin just after 3pm and was well on my way home by 4pm. I brought a novel, anticipating a long queue, and managed to read only a handful of pages. For most of that time waiting, a pianist played lovely classics from the corner of the arena. From start to finish, the experience was reassuring, respectful, and utterly effortless. As I joked on Twitter, “11/10, will vaccinate again!”
Global Vaccine Rate Inequity
Over a hundred thousand people have been vaccinated with me this week – all entirely free. More than half of adults in Ireland are now fully vaccinated, and we can reasonably conclude that by the end of September, everyone who wants to have a vaccine will have had one. And yet for the population of Mali – a poor country in north Africa – the situation is starkly different. A total of 0.5% of adults in the country are vaccinated. At the rate that it has the capacity to vaccinate its people, it will be over fifty years before total coverage is achieved.
This pattern is repeated across the globe. Of course, once everyone in the EU and the USA and the rest of the over-developed world is cared for, attention will turn to the rest of the world and so the situation facing Mali is not as bad as it might seem. But we are certainly facing a situation where vaccination efforts in less privileged countries will stretch right through next year and into the one after.
The inequity of this should, and I believe does bother most of us. But even those who are purely self-interested should be concerned, because the vaccine-free world is a vast well in which mutations can proliferate.
People’s Vaccine Alliance
Today sees the launch of the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a campaign demanding that the Irish Government shows global leadership by committing to solving this problem. We have the resources to take a stand for fairness, equality, and global health. We should use them.
The Jesuits in Ireland have considered this problem recently, but this new initiative, led by Oxfam in conjunction with a number of charities and civil society groups, represents a real possibility to communicate to our leaders just how much support there is out there for Ireland to lead the way to vaccine equity.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance has an all-star cast to launch their campaign today [July 8th] at 1pm. But the webinar isn’t where the change will happen. We all need to support this campaign, by talking about it with our friends, signing the petition, and most importantly, writing to our TDs to encourage them to add their weight to this campaign.
Ending Pandemic is Achievable
Most serious global problems we face are wickedly difficult. For example, even with all the best will in the world, we don’t yet know how to transition to a carbon neutral society. But because of the vaccines, the end to this pandemic is quite straightforward. We need to have more plants manufacturing the drugs and we need pharmaceutical companies to share the recipes and their know-how.
The Irish State can raise its voice and support what is called the TRIPS waiver, that would temporarily suspend intellectual property rights for the various technologies used to end the pandemic and loudly endorse the World Health Organisation C-TAP scheme which facilitates the sharing of essential know-how. The big pharmaceutical firms have now amassed a library of tips and tricks garnered from the experience of producing their vaccines in bulk. Sharing that wisdom is as important as access to the raw materials and the recipes.
Second Dose Solidarity
I’ll be back in Citywest early in August for my second dose. It will be a day of jubilation for me, not because of the (admittedly lovely) music from the pianist in the corner, or even the joy of being in a fast-moving queue. It is knowing that this injection will protect me from life-threatening illness.
The Irish Government must ensure that everyone, everywhere, can access the vaccine, irrespective of the wealth of their countries. Support the People’s Vaccine Alliance and add your voice to those urging them to do so.