Vaccine equity: Whose responsibility?

Angel Baikakedi, Columnist

As the question of a booster shot continues to gain momentum in the US and the UK, there have been concerns on whether it is wise to give third shots to people when other populations globally have not even had the opportunity to receive their first shot. Although the “booster” shot is currently in use for the elderly and anyone else that may be at a higher risk of facing COVID-19 related complications, the plea is to get more than half of the global population vaccinated before administering vaccine boosters. 

In an opinion article for the New York Times, Dr. Moeti argues against the use of booster shots for healthy people, and understandably so. There are places all over the world where droves of people, still unable to get vaccinated, are losing their lives to the virus. More often than not, these places are low-income areas, where there’s even a shortage of the primary resources necessary for COVID-19 patients, such as ventilators and hospital beds.

The fact is, the majority of the first-world countries do not need to be giving boosters to healthy people. To control a global pandemic we must prioritize getting everyone the first shot. If we don’t, the need for boosters and masks will continue to be a quick fix and not a lasting, effective change. Added to this is the fact that rich countries have been hoarding vaccines since they became available, and given that there is a large population of people that are anti the vaccine, at this point, countries like the US are wasting supplies at the expense of people’s lives. 

Boosters shouldn’t be made available to healthy people, especially considering that some people are blatantly refusing even to have their first shots. Furthermore, the article states that the World Health Organization has not yet proven the effectiveness of the booster shot, so there is the possibility that the effort of making it available is in vain. 

Most first-world countries can get access to the vaccine at any given time, even though it may be a lengthy process. Considering the extent to which that vaccines are not accessible in the majority of other countries, a simple donation to these countries would not hurt anyone, especially since the rich countries aren’t experiencing a shortage to begin with.

Even if each country is responsible for their own people, in times like these there is a particular responsibility that first world, wealthy nations have towards less economically developed nations. This is compounded by the fact that most of these countries would not even be the way they are right now if said rich countries hadn’t exploited them. 

The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine needs to become more equitable for everyone. We must stop weighing the price of human lives by what country they reside in.