The inequity caused by vaccine nationalism is deadly
Why many low-income countries aren’t getting the doses they need
In late July, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta decried “vaccine nationalism” while he was in England for the Global Education Summit. Of Kenya’s 53 million people, fewer than 2.4 percent have been vaccinated against COVID. The government has the money to purchase the vaccine, Kenyatta told reporters, but it isn’t available because several high-income countries have already reserved all of the doses that manufacturers can produce for the foreseeable future.
As the delta variant races across the world, disparities in vaccine access are becoming starker—and the consequences deadlier. A study published last month by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that on average “only 1% of those in low-income countries have received at least one vaccine dose compared to 51% in high-income countries.” And countries with low vaccination rates are particularly susceptible to the evolution of new variants.
This problem has no easy solution, because there are multiple barriers to vaccine equity. Moving vaccines across borders involves logistical and legal difficulties, some of which have hindered the Biden administration’s plan to distribute large shipments of vaccines to low-income countries. Nearly expired vaccines are hard to donate since potential recipients usually don’t have the capacity to administer large numbers of vaccines on short notice.