The rich world placed a big bet on vaccines. But the flaw in that gamble became clear as a new variant spreads. The vaccine was never enough to stop the pandemic, Edie Lush points out in this episode, even if the world had enough vaccine. Most of the world did not have enough vaccine and the new variant, Omicron, mutated and began to spread. Wealthy countries, which had kept most of the vaccine for themselves, are now trying to block this variant by blocking travel from countries who first identified it, Botswana, South Africa and neighboring countries in southern Africa. “People are truly livid,” Professor Magen Mhaka Mutepfa of the University of Botswana reports. Africans feel they are being ostracized by the rich world for doing the right thing: reporting the new variant the moment they identified it. Jane Badham, a health consultant, offers a heart rending report of sorrow from Johannesburg.
“African governments and people will need all the solidarity of everybody,” says Dr. David Nabarro, special envoy of the World Health Organization, “The last thing we want is people saying, ‘oh, we'll cancel flights.’ What's it do? What does it do?... I am so fixated on the importance of solidarity and so fixated on the unfairness of single-handed, high-handed responses. And particularly high handed responses from rich countries who've been hoovering up the vaccine and who've been making it difficult for poor countries to cope. No, we actually need to be able to count on each other in dealing with this pandemic. It’s got months, and years to run. So let's just be civil to each other.”
Travel lockdowns may buy some time. But the crucial defenses are, as they have been from the beginning, masks, distancing, testing and isolating of those potentially infected. Peter Hebard, a systems engineer, offers advice on selecting effective masks. You can also learn more from the WHO here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public/when-and-how-to-use-masks
Edie Lush says empathy is crucial to an effective and appropriate global response. “We have to hold the consequences of what we do in mind,” she said, urging the developed world to increase vaccine and medical supplies to southern Africa as well as economic aid to ease the impact of travel bans.
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