The Pandemic Has Created a Global Shortage of Medical Oxygen

The Covid-19 crisis has caused demand for the lifesaving treatment to skyrocket

For many people with Covid-19, a respiratory illness, treatment with supplemental medical oxygen can be lifesaving. It’s usually administered when the disease causes a person’s blood oxygen level to drop — a condition known as hypoxemia. Because so many people around the world have required this treatment, the global supply of medical oxygen has reached a critical low.

As Craig Spencer MD MPH writes in Elemental, the shortage is especially pronounced in low- and middle-income nations. Medical oxygen must be produced, stored, and transported, all of which are expensive processes that many countries cannot support. As a result of the shortage, people have died, black markets for oxygen have emerged, and price gouging has become rampant.

“Medical oxygen cannot remain a luxury available only to those in urban areas or wealthier countries,” Spencer writes. “Until the global inequity in access to oxygen is addressed, many patients won’t receive the treatment they need. Their lives depend on it.”

Read more on Elemental:

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