Viewing the vaccine from outside the box

On the Edge

UNEVEN AND UNFAIR Some three-quarters of the vaccine doses already distributed globally have gone to just ten countries.


On The Edge
Áine Ryan

WRITING about Westport’s War of Independence in the news pages last week brought into a clear focus how fortunate we are as a nation during this pandemic.
A century ago most houses in the town and its environs didn’t have bathrooms, or even toilets. Domestic water supply was usually carried home in a bucket from the well or from one of the on-street pumps. The majority of people were still relying on the humble spud, a head of cabbage and a rasher of homegrown bacon from the poor pig who once lived on scraps in the back yard.
A century later we have adjusted well to having our skinny cappuccinos or macchiatos, dark chocolate brownies or pistachio bakewells out in the fresh air. Shopping online has become a walk in the park. Whilst we may be emitting a sigh or two about another year of staycationing, bookings for hotels and holiday homes along the Wild Atlantic Way have had more online traffic than the green and red caravan crossing the Shannon on All-Ireland Final days.   
My point being – to put it in a global context – locked-down life hasn’t been that bad for those of us lucky people who have managed to evade the virus, not work on the frontline and work remotely from the comfort of our own homes.
Of course, we want to be vaccinated and the sooner the better. Of course, we want life to return to normal, hope each day to hear news that the vaccine roll-out is being ramped up, and pray there are no more headlines about problems with Astra-Zeneca or brinkmanship between the EU and the UK.
Indeed, we welcome the fact that one of our county councillors was holding the Department of Health to account in last week’s edition of The Mayo News over the sluggishness of the vaccine roll-out at the newly opened centre at the Breaffy Resort. Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne is clearly correct in his argument that there was no point in opening the centre unless there are vaccines to be administered. Didn’t his quip resonate that here in Ireland ‘we are great at welcoming things’ but that often there is quite a gap between the welcome and the delivery?       
“Opening the Breaffy centre without the vaccines in place is misleading people and giving them false hope. People want to know when they will be able to get the injection. Getting the vaccine out has to be more of a priority than welcoming these things,” Cllr Kilcoyne said last week.

Unequal distribution
HOWEVER, we should also be cognisant of the fact that here in the European Union bloc of countries we will not be waiting until 2023 to be vaccinated like millions of our fellow human beings on other continents.
Isn’t it hard to believe that some three-quarters of the vaccine doses already distributed globally have gone to just ten countries. Isn’t it hard to believe also that there are at least 30 countries where not one person has received the jab yet?
Whilst such rich countries as the UK and the US plan to vaccinate most of their citizens within months, take poorer countries like Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Zimbabwe,  where they will only reach small fractions of their populations during that timeframe.
The continent of Africa, for example, has 17 percent of the world’s population but has only administered some two percent of the vaccine doses to date.
The ultimate irony is that such inequities will ultimately have an impact on all of us, even this rich country in which we are lucky to live. As long as the virus continues to spread, it is afforded a further opportunity to mutate into a vaccine resistant strain.
Of course, that should not be the reason why we reflect on those less fortunate than us. Coincidentally, they happen to live at socio-economic levels of deprivation our forebears were still experiencing a century ago.