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The Global North's Great Test

After publicly committing to help vaccinate the rest of the world, wealthy, highly vaccinated countries have yet to deliver on their promise, and are now poised to let millions of doses go to waste. Without urgent action to correct this injustice, the West's moral standing will suffer permanent damage.

EDINBURGH – With low-income countries in Africa and elsewhere still imploring rich countries to stop stockpiling millions of unused COVID-19 vaccines, there are still real doubts as to whether the United States and Europe will honor the promise made at this year’s G7 summit to vaccinate the world by the end of 2022.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said that the Global North can deliver enough doses for everyone by next September’s United Nations General Assembly. But the gulf between the vaccine-rich and vaccine-poor has grown so vast that under 2% of adults in low-income countries are fully vaccinated, compared to over 50% of adults in most high-income countries. Worse, millions of doses in high-income countries are now being wasted because they are not being used in time.

For many months earlier this year, Western governments could at least say that there was not enough vaccine supply to meet global demand. But, we are now producing 1.5 billion vaccines every month. As I write this, around 300 million doses of vaccines are lying unused, hoarded in warehouses or on their way to fulfill delivery contracts that have been monopolized by Western countries. As a result, the World Health Organization’s September 2021 goal of vaccinating at least 10% of the population in every low-income country – the basic level needed to cover health workers and the elderly – remains unrealized.

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