Vaccine Inequality: How It Led To The Omicron Variant

Last year, WHO had announced a new Covid variant called Omicron.  It was first reported from South Africa and is currently spreading more than the Delta variant.

We have heard more about vaccine inequality and vaccine nationalism, which means vaccines do not receive equally throughout the world. Rich countries can acquire the maximum amount of vaccines while low-income countries are not.  

Is there any link between vaccine inequality and the emergence of the Omicron variant?

Did Vaccine Inequality Cause Omicron?

The simple answer is, yes. Not only Omicron, but it may cause another new variant as well.

While battling with the pandemic, all the countries in the world wanted to recover as soon as possible. After discovering an effective vaccine for the virus, many countries had a huge demand for it. As a result, most wealthy countries buy vaccines more than enough while low-income countries haven’t many abilities to buy vaccines.

In this situation, the new Omicron variant was discovered in South Africa.

Only 7 countries in the continent could achieve the target rate of vaccination 40% at the end of December last year while 9% of the total people in the continent are fully vaccinated. 

Furthermore, in the African continent, only 1 in 4 front-line health workers are fully vaccinated.

But Canada’s vaccination rate is 76% while USA’s is 64%

Also, according to a survey conducted by The People’s Vaccine Alliance with the participation of 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries, 88% of the participants said that persistent low vaccine coverage in countries can make a vaccine-resistant mutation emergence.

Now you can see the clear difference in vaccine inequality.

According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, the longer vaccine inequity exists, the more opportunity for this virus to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict or prevent.

To overcome this vaccine inequality, many countries including the USA have agreed to support COVAX (a program that accelerates the development and manufacturing of vaccines for equal and fair access for every country). 

Under this, the US has shipped 235 million of 1.1 billion pledged doses while donating $4 billion for COVAX. 

Another solution for this issue is to ramp up vaccine production worldwide, which means sharing intellectual properties about vaccine manufacturing. Even though the US has supported this, many drugmakers and the EU opposed the idea.

In conclusion, no one is safe until everyone is safe. All countries, regardless of their economic status or nationality, should have equal access to vaccines the same as wealthy countries.

Image Credits: Wikimedia commons

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