abdoolkarim1_Deaan VivierBeeldGallo Images via Getty Images_vaccineafrica Deaan Vivier Beeld/Gallo Images via Getty Images

The Mutation of Vaccine Apartheid

While people in many parts of the world have begun receiving booster shots against COVID-19, millions of residents in low-income countries are still waiting for their first dose. Unless the protectionist policies that promote this vaccine inequity change, the virus will continue to mutate and spread, prolonging the pandemic.

JOHANNESBURG – The reaction by governments in the Global North to the discovery of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in South Africa has provided further proof – as if any more were needed – of the deeply inequitable response to the coronavirus pandemic. The backlash against African countries was swift and severe, as if barring travelers from the region could somehow keep the rest of the world safe.

It hasn’t, and closing borders won’t work when the next frightening variant emerges. Global injustice, it turns out, is very bad for public health.

Although more than half the world’s population has now been vaccinated against COVID-19, only 8% of people living in lower-income countries have received a vaccine dose, compared to 48% in lower-middle-income countries and much higher rates in high-income countries. As of November, the United States had administered more than twice as many doses than had been given in all of Africa.

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