[SONG CHEN/CHINA DAILY]
Faced with a lethal pandemic with science recommending vaccines are needed everywhere to defeat it, rich powers, with great indecency, are monopolizing the vaccines above their needs and application capacity. In doing so, they are preventing poor countries from starting to vaccinate, demonstrating, once again, the discrimination toward countries with fewer resources. With unbridled selfishness they do not understand that no one is saved until all are saved.
The developed countries have once again failed the world morally. It is not that the rich countries should not protect their citizens for the sake of others; it is that they are monopolizing the vaccines, preventing them from reaching others.
Does the United States believe that it will be protected when in Mexico and Central America the number of infections continues to rise? The US is storing 300 million doses of the AztraZeneca vaccine, which it has not even approved, while its European partners fight with the manufacturers for noncompliance with agreed deliveries.
The rich countries do not accept any alternative that helps to solve the problem. Multiple voices, including 180 Nobel laureates and political leaders, have requested the temporary release of patents so antigens can be produced in other places, but the rich countries reject such calls to defend the economic interests of pharmaceutical companies that have already received huge public funding for their research. Global leadership looks the other way and turns a deaf ear.
The British Medical Journal pointed out that 20 percent of the world's population will not receive a vaccine until "at least" 2022, some not until 2023. While 60 percent of vaccines have been acquired by countries that have a combined 16 percent of the world population, Duke University published a study suggesting that 90 percent of the population in 70 countries may not be inoculated until 2024. It is a health Titanic that leaves the poorer world's population out of the "lifeboats".
Another study shows that the unequal distribution of vaccines will generate an economic tsunami with an impact of up to $9.2 billion, affecting mainly the developed countries which will have their people vaccinated but whose economies will be devastated by their ignoring of the rest of humanity. Do they really believe they will be able to recover their economies by marginalizing 67 percent of the world economy?
The developed countries are trying to discredit Chinese and Russian vaccines by speaking pejoratively of "vaccine diplomacy "trying to cover up their immoral "vaccine nationalism". Does geopolitical rivalry justify perverse propaganda against vaccines that can save lives? Some European countries in need of vaccines have bought Chinese and Russian vaccines for their demonstrated high effectiveness.
What do the "champions" of democracy and human rights want, that a good part of humanity continue to bury their dead until they remember to give them their surplus? It has not been "diplomacy", it has been solidarity and cooperation from China and Russia that dozens of countries have received and are grateful for.
It does not matter that the developed countries invent forced comparisons and that they confuse the difference between "efficacy", controlled experimental clinical trials, and "effectiveness", a true result of the efficiency of the vaccine in real situations of contagion. For dozens of countries around the world such differentiating of efficacy and efficiency, whether it is done naively or maliciously, does not matter. For these countries in the need, the best vaccine is the one that reaches them.
The World Health Organization intended to celebrate April 7, World Health Day, with all countries vaccinating. Yet frustratingly, the inequality couldn't have been more grotesque. It is not "fair that young and healthy adults in rich countries get vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries cannot get vaccinated", said the WHO director-general. It is impossible to achieve fairness without equity.
Rich countries, self-regarding as being humane and cultured, fail again the majority of people on the planet. Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres speaking to the Human Rights Council, in front of the "great defenders" of human rights, said that COVID-19 "has deepened the divisions, vulnerabilities and inequalities that already existed", and "has also opened new fractures, including certain deficiencies in the area of human rights". "Vaccination with equitable criteria reaffirms human rights, vaccine nationalism denies them".
The Duke University study showed that rich countries with a combined population of 1.2 billion inhabitants had contracted 4.2 billion doses, in contrast to countries with fewer resources that with 3.5 billion inhabitants had ordered only 713 million. The rich countries bought 3.4 doses per capita and the underprivileged half a dose per capita.
Left defenselessness, some members of the European Union, such as Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, decided to seek national solutions and acquired Chinese and Russian vaccines.
Frightened by the geopolitical consequences of the Chinese solidarity received in dozens of countries, the US opted, with the same low morale and decency that they had been showing before the Asian giant, to divulge "fears of efficiency", which the evidence denies.
While the West has hoarded vaccines, China and Russia have reached out to help the rest of the world, dismantling the negative image the developed countries have been trying to sow globally. Consequently much of humanity is protecting itself with Chinese and Russian vaccines.
The Western countries are bothered but what is irrefutable is that in this crisis they have been found wanting.
The author is director of the Center for Analysis and Studies on China and Asia and member of the Academy of Sciences of the Dominican Republic. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.