by Jayati Ghosh | The Progressive Post
For a while this spring, it seemed – at least to European residents – that the vaccine nationalism that had led European governments to procure vaccines that had been rapidly produced with government support and fast-tracked official approval, had paid off. Growing numbers of people were vaccinated against the Covid-19 infections and countries began to open and ease the restrictions in place over the past year. However: the virus can only be stopped when everybody is safe – not only Europeans.
But that optimism has been short-lived as new delta and kappa variants of the coronavirus spread across the continent with the rise of new infections and force rethinking on opening up. New travel restrictions are being imposed, local lockdowns are being considered once again, and there are real fears of even newer mutant variants of the virus that could even prove to be impervious to the vaccines. All this unfortunately confirms what public health activists have been saying repeatedly for more than a year now: no one anywhere in the world is safe from this virus until everyone is safe, and public health cannot be secured through exclusion of some.
Despite this being a really obvious truth, it seems that world leaders didn’t really get it. How else can we explain the extraordinarily obtuse (from a public health standpoint) approach of most governments to dealing with this pandemic? While vaccine development (the basic form of control) has been rapid, largely because of active public support and intervention, the subsequent distribution and supply shortages have been shocking in the extreme. Historians of the future (if there is to be a future for humans in this world) will surely be struck by the combination of small-mindedness and short-sightedness, the real absence of forward-thinking global leadership, that allowed this to happen.