Vaccination challenges for middle and low-income countries

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Angelo Moreno, a 20-year-old medical student from Ecuador studying at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

During 1920, humankind was living one of the toughest times of its history. The world was coursing World War I, then a new type of deadly influenza appeared. It was named Spanish flu, Spain had better count and reporting cases, but the first cases were reported in the US. The Spanish flu reached 20-50 million deaths, but Homo Sapiens did not have the methods to answer: What is causing the pandemic? How to stop the pandemic?

One hundred years later, on the 12th of March 2020, The WHO declared a new pandemic for Homo Sapiens: the COVID-19. This time, humankind has more experience fighting against infectious diseases. Our society now understands the virus that is causing the pandemic, a coronavirus. In less than a year, Homo Sapiens developed some vaccines for the SARS-CoV-2. Homo Sapiens developed the rotavirus vaccine in fifteen years and the Polio vaccine in five. The WHO started the COVAX initiative to buy 2 billion doses and distribute them to low- and middle-income countries. It could be one of the greatest achievements of Homo Sapiens. 

But the market knows no names, not even the World Health Organization. During the 148th Executive Board Meeting of the WHO, Dr. Tedros addressed higher-income countries to be aware of the inequality they have created: “Even as they speak the language of equitable access, some countries and companies continue to prioritize bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices, and attempting to jump to the front of the queue.”

In Ecuador, a country in South America with 18 million inhabitants, the plan of vaccination is predicted to start with 80.000 doses during the third week of January. In comparison, Austria with 8.8 million inhabitants has achieved the milestone of 100.000 doses.

40.4 million vaccines have been distributed worldwide. However, 0 people have been vaccinated in Africa, although the continent is inhabited by 1.216 billion. 219,397 people have been vaccinated in South America, although it is inhabited by 422 million. Africa and South America mean 21% of the worldwide population, but 0.5% of the vaccinated population.

The greatest opportunity to fight the pandemic is opaqued by the distribution of it. “It’s right that all governments want to prioritize vaccinating their own health workers and older people first, but it is not right that younger healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poor countries.” Dr. Tedros, during the opening remarks of the 148th Executive Board Meeting of the World Health Organization.

Homo Sapiens is not ready yet for its biggest challenge: Equality.

About the author

Angelo Moreno is a 20-year-old medical student from Ecuador. He studies at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Currently, he is the Membership Development Assistant in the IFMSA and a member of the Supervising Council in AEMPPI Ecuador. He is constantly working in global health campaigns and advocating for universal access to education and healthcare. He has a background in several NGOs and youth movements. In addition, he is creating an NGO focused on sustainability and ensuring access to education for children.

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