Governments, healthcare agencies, and global health systems have a responsibility to ensure that everyone accesses quality, affordable, and efficient healthcare services. However, during this COVID-19 pandemic, this obligation has been ignored, exposing people to a severe health crisis. For example, approximately 71% of South and North America’s population is fully vaccinated (Hyder et al., 2019, p. 406) On the other hand, only 12% of the people in Africa have been vaccinated (Hyder et al., 2019, p. 406). This difference indicates a problem because both continents are affected by this pandemic. Furthermore, the disparity in vaccine distribution indicates the world battle with unethical issues, such as discrimination and greed, which expose the people to more significant harm.
At the onset of the release of the vaccine to the global market, the acquisition was based on purchasing power, a significant challenge in most underdeveloped countries. Superpowers of inventions, such as the United Kingdom, Argentina, India, Brazil, and the United States, benefited because citizens had unlimited access to vaccinations (Hyder et al., 2019). This factor alone contributed to the rapid increase in fully vaccinated individuals in these countries. However, most countries in Africa relied on donations due to financial constraints experienced preventing them from buying enough vaccines, which slowed down the vaccination rates (Hyder et al., 2019). Meanwhile, countries with access to enough vaccines focused on vaccinating their people with little consideration of people in the underserved countries. This behavior indicated a high level of greed, which is unethical because it promoted unequal distribution.
Another unethical issue displayed was discrimination based on friendship and international relations. Countries with better relations helped each other in accessing and outsourcing vaccines secluding others during this pandemic. This conduct led to discrimination and unequal distribution of vaccines, which posed a significant threat to the counteractive measures adopted to fight COVID-19. As Hyder et al., (2019) mentions, “while some countries are just receiving their first doses others, such as the United States of America, have had vaccines since December 2020 (p. 406)”. This fact indicates that the unequal distribution is outrageous and defeats global counteractive measures. The reason is that while countries like America continue to win the fight, others lose due to the low vaccinations and the surge in infections rates.
Vaccines were developed to reduce the severity of infections and protect people from infection. However, the disparity indicates that many people are not protected against infection or vaccinated to curb spread, which threatens the efficacy of the interventions against infections (Hyder et al., 2019). “Vaccines have health and economic effects that help the poor, such as improving productivity, reducing the severity of disease and costs, and promoting physical and mental health (Hyder et al., 2019, p. 406).” Furthermore, it is impossible to control this infection by concentrating on one country because the pandemic is global (Hyder et al, 2019). Therefore, there is a need for unlimited access to vaccines to ensure that every country is at par with the war against infections. This step will ensure that health equity is maintained and that human rights to quality health services are not violated.
The suboptimal access to vaccines has led to vaccine poverty, leaving the people’s health hanging on the balance. This disparity has revealed the lack of transparency in the vaccination allocation programs because the current vaccine shortage experienced in such countries as India is creating ethical concerns on the transparency of allocation or acquisition of the vaccines. Hyder et al., (2019), explains that “the current crisis in India heightens our fears of how vaccine poverty can affect national and local health inequity” (p.406). Questions arise when such countries as India begin recording a downward trend in the number of vaccinated people. The low vaccination is recorded despite the fact that India was among the first countries to invent their vaccines; ethics in acquisition and allocation is questionable in such cases.
Hyder, A. A., Hyder, M. A., Nasir, K., & Ndebele, P. (2021). Inequitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution and its effects. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 99(6), 406. Web.