THE EDITOR, Madam:

The onset of COVID-19 has revealed a lot about what really matters when it comes to human existence. For example, hand washing can save lives; toilet paper is worth fighting for; and the salaried jobs of these great executives are worthless in a real crisis. Yes, cashiers, health workers, chefs and nurses have turned out to be far more important than previously agreed. Unfortunately, the lessons of COVID-19 will continue to attack us until we really learn.

As the virus crossed the world, leaving disease and death like the grim reaper in its wake, we all prayed for a savior in the form of a vaccine. COVID-19 was not one-sided in its brutality, it hit rich and poor nations alike and brought everything to its knees. Rich countries inundated with money poured money into Big Pharma to speed up the process of finding a cure. Some have ordered from different pharmaceutical companies three times the number of their populations. And yes, they promised to share.

When the vaccines were finally ready, then came a false shortage. Rich countries have racked up the vaccine, getting over 50% of all vaccines, while they only have 14% of the world’s population. It was almost like a contest to see who among them could inoculate their population first. Rich countries can give the first and second dose to anyone who needs it and now recommend a third booster; while other countries barely manage to deliver a dose. This is coupled with vaccine hysteria – a reluctance motivated by wayward popular influencers all around.

The effect of this is a double edged sword as the virus is allowed to thrive and replicate; probably in a more powerful version than the previous one. New strains are constantly transported across borders. When this happens, rich countries naturally start to panic and further promote boosters and order travel restrictions. Haunted by their build-up, they work feverishly again to modify the vaccine so that it is effective against the new strains. How long are they going to keep this? And is there another way?

There is no quick fix to stopping the virus permanently; however, I agree with the World Health Organization in advocating for vaccine equality. Poorer countries face many challenges in administering the vaccine; vaccine availability should not be one of them. It will only get worse if rich countries like America continue to focus on boosters for themselves, when more than three billion people around the world have not been able to receive a single dose. We need to equitably immunize enough people around the world to significantly curb the spread and replication of the virus. Otherwise, it will be like a dog trying to grab its tail, which will be in vain.

FRANK PEART

Bronx, New York

[email protected]