Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Scramble to Vaccinate the World out of the Coronavirus

Forget about the ecumenical spirit, internationalism, universal love of humanity, world peace, human rights philosophy, compassionate capitalism, utilitarian civilization, humanitarianism, global To truly understand the global war against the coronavirus and Covid-19 one must look at one factor first; money. If there is one thing the world has learnt so far about the struggle to rid human societies of this health menace it’s the simple reality that just like in primeval societies, in the contemporary Darwinian struggle for survival against the existential terror of this raging pandemic, only the fittest survive, and money decides who is the fittest to survive the terrible assaults on the human race by hazards like climate crisis, and now Covid-19.

Money; the raw power of money, social affluence, great wealth, these are the greatest weapons available in the hands of strong and powerful individuals, nations, and institutions to fight this health crisis. The poor are, as usual, beggars, spectators, supplicants. In the past they begged for food and money, now they are begging for their lives. Such is the tragedy of unequal societies, the difference between the weak and the strong, the radical inequalities between the rich and the poor.

Who is funding the Covid-19 response? What are the priorities? Why are some countries vaccinated more than others? Which part of the world is most vaccinated? Which part is least vaccinated?

Unfortunately, much of this financial dispensation still exclude poor countries. Governments, development banks, bilateral and multilateral donors, private sector players and philanthropic organization dominate the funding space, and all of them are based in rich countries, and further, their priorities are to satisfy the shareholder partners and their own governments whose investments in vaccine development and production equal the spirit of the post-war Marshall Plan for the Reconstruction of Europe in motive and scope.

Is there a funding boom? Are these funding priorities being turned into action? Let’s look at Africa.

The African Union Covid-19 Response Fund makes clear the needs and priorities for Africa; resources to strengthen continental response to Covid-19; pool procurement of diagnostics, medical supplies, equipment, and vaccines procurement, distribution and delivery.

October 20, 2020 the AU launched a $300 million fundraising under this banner “to help tackle the effects of Covid-19 in Africa.”

I tried hard to establish exactly how much money has been raised by April, 28, 2021. The data just isn’t available. But this is what I know; Africa remains the least vaccinated continent in the world, the poorest, and the one carrying the highest burden of diseases in the face of collapsing health systems. We are terribly behind, and the future health of the continent has never been bleaker.

How are other countries doing? Is there a possibility we might benefit from their successes? Is there any immediate help coming? Or is the burden of the coronavirus and Covid-19 so big, so troubling, and so cumbersome we just have to hunker down and wait for the inevitable hour of catastrophe to fall upon us?

Let’s remember a few things.

The war against the coronavirus and Covid-19 disease started as soon as the human race realized, and came to terms with the reality, that, in this pandemic it was facing an implacable foe. It should have been obvious from the beginning that this was not going to be an easy struggle; perhaps it was obvious from the beginning that this was not going to be an easy struggle.

Truth of the matter is it will take time before we can get just a small idea of how the world really initially responded to the advent of this pandemic. Characteristic of politics, and right from the beginning, public administration responded by giving us a lie. First, no country would admit to being instrumental in the origin and spread of the virus. There were even suggestions that the virus was containable, that it would go away, that no great international harm could come from its impact.

More than a year later it is astounding that political authority could fall so low, that supposedly educated and enlightened political administration could display such ignorant arrogance, that men and women of international standing could be so lax, so gullible, so poor in judgement, frankly so stupid, to promote the attitudes and decision they took, in full view of global astonishment, towards a health emergence pandemic and towards a killer disease of such existential menace and devastating power.

This pandemic has killed many people. It has destroyed economies. It has collapsed health systems. It has destroyed public confidence in politics. It has revealed the appalling structural weaknesses of countries like Botswana and America. It has exposed the empty and barren façade behind political personality and heroism. It has seriously eroded the remaining faith in organized religion, and to some extent it has tested to the limit the omniscient supremacy of science in the management of human affairs.

Whole reputations, private and public, have been ruined. Whole social and cultural rituals, including private grief and loss, weddings and burials, entertainment and arts, education and enlightenment, travels and leisure; all these things the coronavirus and Covid-19 has discounted, undermined, and disqualified from the historical standards of social merit and substantiality.

A lot has been lost. Humanity itself been diminished. But perhaps the most paining victims of these gigantic moral and political lapses, misjudgements, and faults, have been the two basic essentials of human society organizational principles; logic and reason.

Not that there has ever been much logic and reason in politics. Not that there has ever been much logic in morality or religion. But we have always had some faith in humanity as a conceptual category; the only visible, practical and pragmatic symbol of human fellowship and survival. This faith too now stands naked, discredited, and tattered.

How, exactly did the world respond to the coronavirus and the Covid-19 pandemic? Did human intelligence answer to the crisis? Did education, on which so much has been invested, answer to the menace? Did political education and enlightenment help? Did common sense help? We know what happened in Italy at the beginning of the pandemic. The image of a fellow human being jumping from several stories to certain death on an empty street will always haunt me. And so, the sacrifices made to let the old die so the young could have the chances to survive in overwhelmed intensive care units. Similar things happened in Spain, and that was a year ago.

Right now, the world is watching India, a country with a capacity to produce 75 million vaccines a month, battling the coronavirus, and concerns are rising that Africa, where vaccines are short in supply, will be the next hotspot. India has access to vaccine, or should really not be running short of vaccines. The Serum Institute of India has  capacity to produce billions of vaccines. Africa has no such capacity and the Covax facility, on which most African countries look to for help, counts on India to provide vaccine supplies to poor African countries.

What is happening in India though is something else; an apocalypse that should have been prevented. What happened instead? Political and religious privilege where prioritized over public health considerations, political campaigns favoured over Covid-19. Resource and financial supply chains essential for vaccine development and production were not protected from collapse and dysfunctions that are rampant in the vaccine markets. As catastrophic surges of transmissions, infections and deaths (India just broke world records in all three areas) shipments of oxygen supplies, ventilators, vaccines, even medical personnel are beginning to arrive from western countries.

The country is drowning in crisis. People are dying in grieving homes, dirty streets and outside crowded hospitals, and political system has lost its authoritative voice and command over public affairs.

It’s easy to blame the Indian health tragedy on the lethal, and more transmissible double variant B.1.1.7 but the real problem in India comes from politics, religion and traditions that have no moral concerns for the public good. The leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, trapped in the pseudo masculine infantilism of the likes of  Presidents Bolsonaro and Trump, is not helping the situation.

India has recorded more than 20 million cases of the coronavirus. It is the first country to register more than 400 000 new cases in 24 hours. On Labour Day 3 689 people died in 24 hours. America told its citizens to leave the country amid this Covid crisis, and the  world watches in appalled fascination public crematoriums burning funeral pyres and declaring ‘death is the only truth’, images that will remain seared in public minds for ages.

A British Indian couple watched helplessly six family members dying in three days. More than  200 000 Indians have died during this second wave of the virus. Donors from around the world started giving food supplies, medical supplies and aid, oxygen tanks, P.P.E and other essentials. Round the clock mass cremations dominated world media and the Government had to ask social media companies to stop reporting stories it deemed embarrassing, people dying waiting for beds, crematoriums running out of space , people fighting for oxygen cylinders, trees in National parks being cut for pyre fire wood, collapse of the health system in real time, mass political rallies such as the one held by Prime Minister Narenda Modi to ask for the votes  in a grieving national population, religious gatherings, holidays and pilgrimages on the River Ganges, where people ignored health protocols, patients suffocating in overcrowded and understaffed hospital, fires at crematoriums lighting up the skies, and children crying in the streets of terror…just how does a country hide such a mess?

Joe Biden has more than just vaccinated more than 200 million Americans in 100 days. He has gone further to make policies and pass legislation that will change the face of American society in the twenty -first-century. There is hope for humanity in what is happening in America under the Joe Biden administration. Just to recap, when Biden entered the White House, he found there never was any federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. A few weeks later all the six former top Trump science advisors would go on live TV to reveal worse things about the Trump response to the pandemic.

It’s too early to draw firm conclusions about the global response to this pandemic. 600 million people worldwide have been vaccinated. A gigantic number; 7 billion, people have not been vaccinated. But it’s clear we all made a bad start in our fight against the coronavirus and Covid-19 pandemic. We should have been more united, more courageous, more rational, much more resolute in our commitments and more compassionate to each other.

All this we have not done, and where we tried, we did not do well. It might be time to return to the table and start the necessary work on course correction, to embrace all human efforts, large and small, fragile and uncertain, weak and vulnerable.

It’s not too late to do this; to be human again.

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