Spare a thought for Dr Tedros's appealSaturday, March 27, 2021
As he has been doing for months now, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was reported on Friday as pleading with rich countries hoarding COVID-19 vaccines to spare a thought for others who share planet Earth.
In his latest appeal, Dr Tedros is urging the donation of 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX (COVID-19 Global Access) facility to ensure that every country starts vaccinating within the first 100 days of 2021.
Given that we are now within a week of closing the first quarter of the year, that seems a forlorn hope, at best.
Up to now, rich countries have paid little heed to voices like Dr Tedros, or anyone else on this matter.
We hear that some nations have stocked five times the dosage required by their population. This, even as the WHO director general tells us that, up to late this week, 36 countries were yet to receive a single dose. That means that, as poorly as Jamaica has so far done in its vaccination programme, this country is better off than many.
It's a manifestation of how self-interest can defeat logic.
For, in fact, the novel coronavirus is so infectious that it engulfed the entire planet within a year of first showing up in Wuhan, China. That must surely demonstrate that, in our intricately connected world, no country will be safe until people everywhere are immunised.
Experts point out that the SARS-CoV-2 has shown a frightening capacity to speedily mutate and adapt to new conditions. The longer its various strains are left to mutate without intervention using vaccines, the more dangerous it becomes.
We dare not forget that already the virus has killed well in excess of 2.7 million people globally; some 557 people right here in Jamaica.
When this pandemic is finally under control, and the story is pieced together, vaccine nationalism will perhaps be seen as the sorriest and most shameful aspect of the entire episode.
Dr Tedros said on Friday that of 36 countries still unable to start vaccinations, 16 were scheduled to receive their first doses through COVAX within 15 days.
Clearly an optimist, the WHO head is hopeful the remaining 20 countries will also benefit within the 15-day period.
“Getting all countries started by day 100 [of 2021] is a solvable problem. COVAX needs 10 million doses immediately as an urgent stop-gap measure so these 20 countries can start vaccinating their health workers and older people within the next two weeks,” he said.
We note optimism from Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton that as rich countries get closer to the comforting thought of herd immunity towards the middle of the year, vaccines will become more available and cheaper for the rest of us.
For now, though, Jamaicans must do the simple things that are within their control, such as always wearing a mask when they leave home, keeping a safe distance from other people, sanitising and washing hands regularly, and avoiding crowded places.
Also, the authorities must enforce the rules under the Disaster Risk Management Act which, we note, is now being amended. All of us should protect ourselves and others by doing the best we can.
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