As I sat recovering from the side-effects of my third COVID vaccine shot, certain things did not add up.
First of all, I know a number of good, intelligent people who are choosing not to get vaccinated. Of course, there are some very unkind individuals among them who harass our healthcare workers and people in the service industry.
What is interesting is that this group is different from people who generally object to vaccinations. They are more numerous and they lean more conservatively than usual. The reason for this is becoming clear. The independent American news source Democracy Now recently stated, “a right-wing network linked to billionaire Charles Koch has played a key role in fighting public health measures during the pandemic, including mask and vaccine mandates, contact tracing and lockdowns.”
My first two doses of the COVID vaccine were Astra-Zeneca. When demand for this vaccine dropped in western countries, remaining doses were sent to developing countries, supposedly to meet the call of the World Health Organization to vaccinate billions of our less-wealthy neighbours. The problem was that these vaccines were weeks away from their expiration date and most ended up going to waste because health authorities did not have time to get them into the arms of their citizens.
The only vaccines available in Canada right now are made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both of these companies have received generous government assistance and have benefited from publicly funded research by academic scientists in developing their vaccines.
The fact that billions of people have not been vaccinated allows the COVID virus more chances to mutate. The vast majority of these individuals live in places where governments simply cannot pay the asking price of Western pharmaceutical companies.
As I recover from my latest injection, I ask myself, “How many more boosters will I need before the COVID crisis is over?” I also ask, “How many more of my tax dollars will go into the coffers of Pfizer and Moderna?”
Fortunately, other global players are stepping forward. The Chinese government will donate 600 million doses of their vaccine to Africa and will produce 400 million more through partnerships with Chinese companies and African countries, according to the Africa Times. Such sharing, quite frankly, puts our profit-driven pharmaceutical industry to shame.
Tiny Cuba has also developed two Covid vaccines, both of which are proving to be quite effective. This is very good news for Cuba’s political allies, namely Venezuela and Iran. Other countries have also shown interest including Vietnam, Nicaragua, Argentina and Mexico. These vaccines are not only being made available to millions more people, they are also a fraction of the price of those produced by Pfizer and Moderna.
What humanity needs to realize is COVID does not care whose podcast you listen to. It doesn’t care how rich or poor you are. It doesn’t care if you love America, China or Cuba. It doesn’t care if you’re a capitalist or a socialist. It will spread and mutate. It will make people sick and it could potentially become more contagious and deadly. No one in the world is safe until everyone in the world is safe.
We will be studying the global COVID pandemic for many years. We will look at what we did right and what we did wrong. We will look at health measures that were effective in preventing the spread, the long-term impact of vaccinations, the reason for the spread of misinformation, and the economic impact of the pandemic.
We will also celebrate the heroes who saved lives and kept our spirits strong through a very difficult time.
One thing that we need to understand right now is that we must put aside our greed and our political interests and come together as one humanity for the good of all humanity. It is up to us to save our own lives.
Gerry Chidiac is a Prince George teacher.