Covid Vaccine Privilege: The Poor and Occupied Suffer

January 4, 2021 /

The World Health Organisation in the face of a common global challenge posed by Covid hoped and promoted the idea of a greater inter-national cooperation. On the basis of the simple understanding that if one part of globe remains infected the rest cannot be assured safety. However, economic greed and racist colonialist attitudes continue to provide resistance against working in unity. This is creating a disparity in health care.

The privileging of the west has seen the Covid vaccine being unequally distributed. The economically rich countries have not only jumped the que in placing their orders but many poor countries are being priced out. While the UK now has access to a total of 357 million and the USA 1.01 billion doses of vaccines. According to the People’s Vaccine Alliance 67 low income countries have made no purchases of their own and are wholly reliant on NGO’s and charitable institutes.  While finance plays a big part, greed has made the situation worse. The rich countries have secured more doses of vaccines than is required by their population. The UK has ordered three times more than what is required and Mohga Kamal Yanni, a physician speaking for the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said, while the rich countries are hoarding “the poor countries don’t even have enough to reach health workers and people at risk”.

The rich countries have also copyrighted the Covid vaccine, that should be a right to everyone, as an intellectual property. Remembering that most of the pharmaceuticals used public funds for their research into Covid vaccine however, they are retaining an exclusive right to its manufacturing. This intellectual property rights restricts poorer countries to manufacture their own vaccine. This is at the back of a report from the investment bank Morgan Stanley who state, Pfizer and Moderna, two of the leading companies in the production of the vaccine are to earn US$32B from Covid vaccine sales in 2021.

The privileging of Covid vaccine is most stark in the gap between Israel and the Palestinian territories. At present Israel controls everything that goes into and out of West Bank and Gaza. Israel as an occupying power, has according to international law the legal obligation over the health of the Palestinians. While Israel is reported to have received 10 million doses of the vaccine, 6 million from Moderna and 4 million doses from Pfizer, the Palestinians have nothing. The situation in the West Bank with over 90,000 Covid cases recorded is bad, but the Gaza Strip under blockade described by the United Nations as “unliveable” is on the point of public health catastrophe.

Gaza with its 2 million population has received limited access to PPE and testing equipment. They also find themselves in the dire position of not being able to store the vaccine when they are lucky to receive it. As vaccine requires to be stored in a freezer and due to the Israeli blockade, the electricity in Gaza is intermittent and some days for only 4 hours. With the blockade continuing and Israel denying basic essential to enter Gaza including the Covid vaccine, the people in Gaza face an engineered hardship. As Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister posed with a smile to receive his vaccination on 19 December, Palestine recorded over two thousand cases.

The practices by the rich and Israel colonialism will make the otherwise avoidable deaths from coronavirus a certainty. The wealthy and military powerful states might think they are gaining an advantage in muscling out the Rest but it is well to remember the coronavirus is indiscriminate and through the poor and colonised the privileging of Covid vaccine can come back to haunt the privileged.