According to the World Health Organization, at least 40% of people in every country need to be vaccinated by the end of 2021, and at least 70% by the first half of 2022. These figures look huge for developing countries like Nigeria.
What is Vaccine Equity?
It is the fair and unbiased access to vaccines by eligible individuals. It is when an equitable distribution of vaccines exists globally.
As pointed out by the Global Citizen, last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was referred to as “the great equalizer”. It has affected people of different races, nationalities, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds. However, even though the introduction of the vaccines provided an opportunity for a reduced risk of the virus, not everyone has access to the vaccines.
For example, a significant percentage of Nigeria’s population remains unvaccinated, and this poses a threat to the country’s chances of herd immunity and recovery. According to a report by CNN Health, >1% of the Nigerian population is fully vaccinated (as of September 22). This is a staggeringly low percentage, especially when compared to countries such as Portugal, Ireland, Canada, United Kingdom and the United States whose vaccination rates (full) stand at 84.2%, 72.6%, 69.6%, 65.3% and 54.1% respectively.
A quote by the World Health Organization underscores the urgency of vaccine equity: “the global failure to share vaccines equitably is taking its toll on some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. New variants of concern mean that the risks of infection have increased in all countries for people who are not yet protected by vaccination.”
It is therefore imperative that everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated gets access to the vaccine. If we are all at risk of getting infected by the virus, we should all get an equal chance to be vaccinated.
Why is Vaccine Equity Important?
Vaccine equity ensures that the vulnerable groups amongst us have an equal chance to experience good health and safety while ensuring that they too can recover from the harsh impacts of the pandemic as the rest of the world does so.
It also helps to reduce the threat of the pandemic worldwide. A publication by the United Nations rightfully points out that COVID-19 will remain a global threat as long as it exists in any part of the world.
The UN further states that vaccine inequity allows more variants of the virus to emerge and spread across various parts of the world. However, when vaccines are distributed fairly, we can curb the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of new variants globally.
Vaccine equity also enables economically disadvantaged countries to recover from the socio-economic effects of the pandemic. As claimed by the UN, vaccine inequity will have an enduring impact on socio-economic recovery in low and lower-middle-income countries, and impede progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
When there is an imbalance in the distribution of vaccines globally, developing countries like Nigeria bear the brunt. While developed countries with powerful systems and infrastructure make giant strides on the road to recovery, disadvantaged countries will be left behind.
However, when vaccines are fairly and equitably distributed, the world has a stronger chance of curbing the spread of the virus and fighting the pandemic.
World leaders and institutions must prioritize vaccine equity by coming together to ensure that no one is left behind in the dispersal of the COVID-19 vaccines.
In recognition of the fact that we all have a role to play in achieving vaccine equity, the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund is on a strategic mission to mobilize resources for the vaccination of one million Nigerians by 2022. You can support this cause by donating via https://nigeriasolidarityfund.ng/donate/. Let us work together to speed up our chances of recovery as a nation.
To further drive action, we are immensely proud to support #GlobalCitizenLive, an event aimed at uniting individuals everywhere to take action for a better world. The event is a part of Global Citizen’s ‘Recovery Plan for the World’ campaign which focuses on tackling issues such as COVID-19, poverty, the hunger crisis, climate change, and more.
#GlobalCitizenLive is a 24-hour event that will take place on the 25th of September, across six continents, in cities such as Lagos, Paris, New York, Seoul, Los Angeles, Rio, Mumbai and more. The Lagos edition will feature music icons, Femi Kuti, Tiwa Savage, Burna Boy, Davido and Made Kuti. You can watch the event live via http://gclivelagos.org/.