Solidarity and Justice continue to be obsolete words even when catastrophe concerns us all, like a great universal Titanic. A tiny and sticky virus has stirred fears, shaken societies and health systems, provoked countless reflections about today and the future, but it has failed to make equity and love of neighbor flourish.
This week, 100 million people will be infected in the world with COVID-19 and more than 2 million have already died .
“Every day the gap between the haves and the have-nots increases. The pandemic has reminded us that health and the economy are related and that we are all in the same boat. The pandemic will not end until it ends everywhere ”, said this Monday the Director General of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The numbers attest to the expert’s assessment.
The privileged cure
Despite numerous calls from the UN and various world leaders to seek a global response to the pandemic and to facilitate and share access to a cure for the disease, narrow views and deaf ears predominate.
“Science is succeeding, but solidarity is failing,” said UN Secretary General António Guterres on January 15. Several vaccines are already available in the world to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but access to them is profoundly unequal like the world we inhabit.
To date, some 66.33 million doses have been applied, of which 93% have been delivered in just 15 countries: USA, China, UK, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Germany, India, Italy, Turkey, Spain , France and Russia, according to the data analysis platform Our World in Data , based on figures from the University of Oxford.
In all of Sub-Saharan Africa, only 25 doses of vaccines had been administered in Guinea. Populous countries like Nigeria, with 200 million inhabitants, are waiting for the first dose.
The same scramble that was experienced at the beginning of the pandemic with lung ventilators, masks and protective suits, is now being staged with vaccines: hoarding, overpricing and speculation. “An immoral race towards the abyss”, as cataloged by the main director of the WHO.
The COVAX fund, created as a kind of global effort to make vaccines accessible to the poorest nations or nations with limited resources, announced that in February it will begin to deliver the first doses (it was first said that in January), but acknowledges that it has constrained by the lucrative deals of various individual nations with the pharmaceutical firms that produce COVID vaccines.
Another handicap has been the high cost of the vaccines that have the highest international approval so far. As Norwegian expert John-Arne Rottingen pointed out to The Guardian: “The difficulty is that we really only have widespread international approval for the commercialization of two vaccines: the two mRNA vaccines. The challenge is that one, the Modern vaccine is very expensive, and the other, the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine, which was first available and is now being applied in Europe, is moderately expensive compared to others, and requires a super cold chain. The price and the cold chain makes it not are the ideal vaccines for a global vaccine “
As nations like India and South Africa call on the WHO to campaign for drug companies to renounce intellectual property rights to COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, which would allow other qualified manufacturers in the South to expand production of those antidotes. ; countries like the US, the UK and Canada have opposed the initiative. Those three wealthy nations have bought or reserved enough doses to inoculate their populations at least four times.
High-income countries represent 16% of the world’s population, but have more than 60% of the vaccines purchased so far.
Rich countries account for most of the vaccine production. Graphic: The Guardian
Some projections put 27% of the total population of poor and middle-income countries that may be vaccinated this year. The Center for Innovation in Global Health at Duke University estimates that there will not be enough vaccines to immunize the world’s population until at least 2023.
“The world is on the brink of catastrophic moral failure and the price of this failure will be paid in lives and livelihoods in the poorest countries of the world,” Dr. Tedros said with regret.
The virus of inequality
“Vaccine nationalism” is the exact reflection of an unequal and unfair world in which a few remain the great beneficiaries of wealth, for which billions must be content with the leftovers.
It is the “virus of inequality” that OXFAM denounces in its most recent report , in which it shows that the current failed economic system “allows a super-rich elite to continue accumulating wealth in the midst of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, while billions of people are struggling to get ahead. “
While billionaires saw their fortunes increase between March and December 2020 by a total volume of 3.9 trillion dollars – to amass the unimaginable figure of 11.95 trillion -, the poorest on the planet will need “more than a decade to recover. of the economic impacts of the crisis ”accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Racial differences have also deepened. In the United States, the most powerful nation on the planet, if death rates were equal to those of the white population, about 22,000 Latinos and blacks would not have died from the coronavirus outbreak. In Brazil, people of African descent are 40% more likely to die from COVID than white people.
One of the conclusions of the Oxfam report is that “the pandemic is likely to increase inequality in a way never seen before.” The World Bank has warned that, in the current context, more than 100 million people could reach extreme poverty.
The world’s 10 richest men saw their net worth increase by $ 540 billion in the 2020 pandemic period. That list is led by Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. It also includes the CEO of luxury group LVMH, Bernard Arnault; Bill Gates and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. According to Oxfam, the money these potentates hoard would be enough to prevent people from falling into poverty due to the effects of the virus and it would also guarantee a vaccine for everyone on the planet.
Sun of the moral world
Amid so much inequity and indifference, a small archipelago in the Caribbean called Cuba has been able to send thousands of doctors and nurses, in some 50 brigades of the “Henry Reeve” Internationalist Contingent, to more than thirty countries in Latin America. and the Caribbean, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, to collaborate in the fight against the deadly disease.
Thousands of lives saved or recovered in a scenario of total complexity are the fruit of their solidarity work. The human and professional quality of these children of the Cuban people overcomes the most diverse obstacles and leaves a mark of affection, gratitude and example that is recognized by all with whom they have shared and who they have cared for.
That same country, with few economic resources but abundant in trained and educated talent, has been able to build an advanced biopharmaceutical industry, which is now preparing to produce 100 million doses of Sovereign 02, one of the 4 vaccines in which your scientists work. This would allow the entire Cuban population to be immunized (it would be one of the first countries to do so) and to have more than 70 million doses for other peoples of the South. There are already countries interested in acquiring it, such as Vietnam, Iran and Venezuela, Pakistan and India, the Director General of the Finlay Vaccine Institute recently announced.
Researchers from that institution are working with countries such as Italy and Canada to verify the impact of the Sovereign 01 vaccine on people who have already had COVID-19 and are convalescing, but are at risk of reinfection.
“We are not a multinational company where (financial) return is the number one reason. We work the other way around, creating more health and return is a consequence, it will never be the priority ”, explained to the press last week Dr. Vicente Vérez, leader of the main vaccine research center in Cuba.
“Our world can only beat this virus in one way: united,” the UN Secretary General recently emphasized. Unfortunately, the vaccines of solidarity and justice have not been able to be applied in the rich world that dominates.