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While rich countries like the USA and UK are starting to vaccinate their populations against COVID-19, poor countries may lack access to a vaccine for years. A global effort to provide vaccines through the COVAX facility (the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator) aims to distribute 2 billion vaccinations by the end of next year, but the USA has refused to join and even those rich countries that have joined are entering into bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies to buy up the supply. Canada, for instance, has already secured enough to vaccinate its entire population nine times over, and the USA, European Union, UK, Australia and Japan can vaccinate their populations between 2 and 8 x.1
Vaccine nationalism is neither ethically justified, nor even in rich countries’ long-term self-interest. No one deserves the luck of their birth and few have much control over their country of residence. So, when there are four ventilators per 12 million people in some low-income and middle-income countries, and people are being buried in cardboard boxes in mass graves, it is simply unconscionable to argue that wealthy countries can keep their vaccines to themselves or even help their populations first.2 Vaccine nationalism fails to respect basic human rights and the people who have them. Moreover, many argue that rich countries have contributed to global poverty through a shared and violent history of colonialism and oppression and profit from instituting, upholding and sustaining coercive rules (eg, of international trade) that often exacerbate, rather than alleviate, global poverty.3 Be that as it may, putting basic health systems in place to ensure everyone can get vaccinated, not only against COVID-19 but a host of other terrible diseases, would better protect even the rich from resurgences …
Contributors NH contributed to the design and implementation of the research, to the analysis of the results and to the writing of the manuscript.
Funding I am grateful for support from the World Health Organization and Binghamton University’s Citizenship, Rights and Cultural Belonging Grants Programme, Interdisciplinary Collaboration Grants Programme, Poverty and Inequality Transdisciplinary Working Group Grants Programme, DeFleur International Innovation Fund as well as Harpur College.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.
↵Just saying constitutive ties equate to stronger obligations is far from an argument for the view that might convince anyone who does not already agree with it.
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