The global south continues to be neglected as widespread vaccinations are projected to arrive in 2023, if at all, according to a recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit. This comes while the UK and the U.S. are rapidly vaccinating their populations, with over 200 million doses already administered between them.
The main reason the report states for vaccine inequality is the accumulation of them amongst the wealthiest countries. Rather than being distributed on the basis of need, 50% of all vaccines have been ‘pre-booked’ by only countries made up of just 15% of the global population.
This ‘pre-booking’ can be very accurately described as hoarding, with these wealthy nations ordering far more vaccines than needed. According to the Duke Global Health Innovation centre, the EU has ordered 525 million surplus vaccines, while the UK and Canada are to receive over 150 million in excess respectively. There is no plan to redistribute these surplus vaccines to countries in need. Whether they will be leveraged in neocolonial trade deals or simply thrown out is yet to be seen.
This isn’t the first instance of nefarious dealings regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, either. During Oxford University’s development of a vaccine in 2020, they pledged to open-source the relevant information regarding its production, allowing anybody to reproduce it for free. Upon completing development, Oxford sold exclusive rights for the vaccine to ‘Big Pharma’ corporation AstraZeneca with encouragement from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is now the primary vaccine being distributed in the UK and has seen a massive boost in market value because of it. Bill Gates has not made his investments regarding COVID-19 public and has increased his personal wealth by approximately $30 billion since the beginning of the pandemic.
Many in the global south were expecting to be able to utilise the public development of the Oxford vaccine to immunise their people, but that idea was soon neutralized by a coalescence of corporate forces. COVAX, an initiative by the WHO to carry out vaccinations the global south, is expected to be extremely slow and delayed in its rollout.
The original report seems to have gathered information exposing a deeply rooted flaw in the global economic order, yet falls short of such conviction. China and Russia are brought up several times, stating that their production of independent vaccines will surely be used to “bolster their global status” and to “advance their interests”. The report was compiled by The Economist, a liberal publication known for being consistently agreeable to Washington’s agenda. These comments about China and Russia appear sorely out of place and forced in comparison with the rest of the article. They are clearly trying to conjure up boogeymen to distract from more formidable takeaways regarding capitalism and western hegemony.
Meanwhile, the global south continues to suffer, with Africa making up the vast majority of countries that will be waiting until 2023 for vaccines. Contrary to a narrative of global equality of opportunity that is conveyed, imperialism has transformed into a deep seated neocolonialism which ravages the global south. This devastation is only exacerbated by capitalism’s periodic crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.