Though for the week, 31st January; Vaccine Stories
Covid vaccines are in the news. As I write on Friday, two new vaccines have shown successful results in clinical trials. Unfortunately, a new term has also entered into our vocabularies; “vaccine nationalism”, with the EU and Astra Zeneca embroiled in a row about supplies. This is not the place to pronounce on who is right and wrong, but it is depressing; the World Health Organisation has declared its concern over the possibilities of export controls being applied to vaccines. Science has given us the tools to fight the virus; sadly, by itself, it does not give us the wisdom to know how to share these. But, lost in the current war of words, is another story that I find even more challenging. On Monday, Norway announced that for every vaccine it administered to its own citizens, it would also donate a matching vaccine to go to a poor country. I admire this act, but I really am not sure if I would dare do it if I had power in this country. Leaving aside political consideration, is our death rate so high that we have a moral responsibility to first control our own epidemic? How do I judge between the lives of people in this country and elsewhere? I simply do not know and I am grateful I do not have to make these decisions. A colleague who I was talking to in the church about this dilemma pointed out that there are organisations such as Unicef that allow personal donations to worldwide covid vaccination programs via their websites (e.g. https://www.unicef.org.uk/donate/coronavirus/) and this is the best I can come up with in response to my own dilemma. We can at least celebrate the actions of nations such as Norway (and our own country in offering free facilities to characterise new versions of the virus from anywhere in the world) and companies such as Astra Zeneca who will supply their virus as cost-price to countries who cannot afford it, whilst pondering how best to act ourselves.