Should Wealthy Nations Ration Vaccines?
February 21, 2021
As verified COVID-19 vaccines were released by companies such as BioTech and Pfizer, most of the world’s countries became eager to stockpile enough so that they would be able to adequately vaccinate the majority of their populations. Of course, given the abominable demand, wealthier countries were able to offer higher prices for larger quantities and began to hoard the vaccines, leaving little ability for poorer countries to gain as much of a supply. This teetering and uneven situation lead to a similarly uncertain question: Should wealthier countries share?
Backed by enormous funds, nations such as the United States and Canada were able to buy vaccines in unfathomable quantities. CNBC asserted, “The People’s Vaccine Alliance said rich nations representing just 14% of the world’s entire population had bought up 53% of all of the promising vaccines so far.” According to NPR, other countries which appear high on the list of claimed vaccines include the UK, the EU, and Australia, all three having relatively smaller populations compared to countries lower on the list such as Brazil and India.
This unbalance created by pure economic power could create an unjust priority for the lives and safety of individuals who live in rich nations. For example, while the United States will be able to vaccinate its population fairly quickly, some nations won’t be able to fully cover their population until as late as 2024, according to The Washington Post. This begs a question of morality, is it fair to decide which people are more important, based solely on their state’s affluence? It is easy to see the importance of the vaccine to the way society functions; or the way that it used to, but is it selfish to proclaim that one society returning to normal is better than another? It is difficult to determine when everyone wants COVID-19 to end, and when it’s hard to consider that another country might have to continue to suffer for several more years.
Something else that is important to consider is the political stance that this problem takes in the government. No matter which way a government sways, one group of people is bound to be angry with the decision. If the government decides to ration the vaccines more evenly with poorer countries, people will be upset that the virus will last longer in their area. However, it might be unfair to less wealthy countries to decide that it is more important to vaccinate your country first.
In conclusion, there is no quick nor easy solution that solves this problem. Supplies of vaccines are not boundless, and countries must make the decision whether to share vaccines or to keep them.