“In places like sub-Saharan Africa…widespread vaccination won’t happen until 2023.”

Around the world, the vaccine rollout has been anything but equitable. Wealthy nations like the United States and the U.K. have secured vaccine doses to vaccinate their entire populations, while the vast majority of countries have not even received their first shipment.

If you live in a wealthy country, it may be tempting to shrug, feel grateful for your situation, then forget about the people around the world who don’t have access to a vaccine. But as emergency room doctor Craig Spencer MD MPH writes in Elemental, making sure that the vaccine is rolled out equally across nations is a public health issue for everyone, no matter where they live.

The major reason, he explains, is that global vaccination is key to stopping the emergence and spread of variants, which have the potential to affect people everywhere. We are already seeing that now with the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants, which emerged in the U.K. and South Africa, respectively, but have since spread around the world.

“The concern is that as the virus continues its uncontrolled global spread, variants could emerge that undermine the protective effect of our vaccines,” Spencer writes. “This would make us all more vulnerable, regardless of whether we were lucky enough to be vaccinated.”

There are also economic and humanitarian arguments for ensuring a just rollout around the world. And for what it’s worth, the Biden administration has recommitted itself to the World Health Organization and COVAX, the WHO’s vaccine procurement and distribution program for less wealthy countries. However, Spencer says, there’s a lot more that countries like the United States can do to get the world vaccinated sooner.

Read his story on Elemental:

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