Prioritise the unvaccinated
There was a huge sigh of relief following the development of Covid-19 vaccines within a year after the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Amid the immense human suffering, immunisation was expected to accelerate the pace towards global triumph over the deadly virus. But the journey has not been as fast as was the vaccine development.
While parts of the world have embarked on post-pandemic recovery following rapid immunisation campaigns, many others are still in the woods. Two glaring challenges — inequity in vaccine distribution and anti-vaxxers — have dealt a blow to the global push to eradicate the virus.
Yet another problem that is likely to exacerbate the inequitable distribution of vaccines is emerging. Wealthy countries, which have mostly managed to reduce infections with widespread vaccination, are mulling booster shots to their populations. However, many middle- and lower-income countries (LMIC) are yet to fully vaccinate their citizens.
Curtail vaccines supply
The action by the wealthy nations will, therefore, curtail the supply of vaccines to LMIC, effectively hampering vaccination where it is needed the most.
Ideally, a booster shot should be given to people with a compromised immune system to heighten the production of antibodies required for their protection after the initial dose. As such, giving additional doses to populations not immunocompromised, as opposed to prioritising those who have not received even the first dose, is misguided.
As with other viruses responsible for past global pandemics, Covid-19 is no respecter of boundaries: The longer the circulation, the faster the emergence of deadly variants. A commitment to ensure vaccines are distributed to every part of the globe in fair and equal manner should be met if humanity is to emerge victorious in the war against the virus.
With the vast majority of Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths among the unvaccinated attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant, it makes sense to give them a shot in the arms — and urgently so.
Dr Kerima (PhD) is a biochemist. @KerimaZablon