The COVID-19 pandemic has escalated international tension between rich and poor economies. The news of vaccines’ development has propelled developed countries to buy these substances as much as possible. Hoping to gather the amount that is enough to cover their populations, rich nations have left the developing and emerging economies without access to COVID vaccination. The resulting discrepancy is a natural outcome of global economic inequality, which disenfranchises states with lower economic capabilities. However, the rapid hoarding of vaccines can backfire in the form of economic, political, and social crises, which may put wealthy countries at a disadvantage.
Failure to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals
The first consequence of the unequal distribution of COVID response measures is the weakening of the United Nations. The purpose of the UN is to provide and maintain adequate living conditions for all people, regardless of their country of origin, gender, race, economic status, or political affiliations. Sustainable Development Goals were introduced to resolve pertinent issues, like inequality, wars, lack of access to health and other obstacles to global welfare. The United Nations set 2030 as the time criterion for accomplishing these tasks.
However, the rise of coronaviruses has put achieving the UN goals at risk. The pandemic has precipitated a global recession, which has impacted all countries, including the wealthy ones. Unlike the representatives of the developing world, the rich nations are able to overcome the economic downturn and vaccinate their populations. At the same, countries with fewer resources cannot receive vaccines because the number of anti-COVID substances is limited and has already been purchased (Nhamo 2). Subsequently, nations without a vaccine should wait until more is produced.
Another option for middle-income countries is to opt for a vaccine with a lower efficiency rate. The evident implication is a higher health risk for people who are vaccinated. The situation is worse in poor countries since they do not have the capability to have any vaccines. The combination of low-efficiency treatment and its absence for millions of people compromises the United Nations as an organization, incapable of fulfilling its goal of eradicating health inequality. Failure to meet the Sustainable Development Goals set by 2030 might increase the support for abolishing the UN altogether.
Effect of Poor Economies on the Rich Ones
The second repercussion is the potential deficit of markets for manufacturers from developed countries. Although it is not immediately visible, all economies are intertwined. Just like developing countries depend on wealthy economies and their loans, the rich nations require poor ones to buy their commodities and services. In order for economic cooperation to be successful, people of low-income countries need to have enough money to access foreign products. The absence of consumers causes corporations to deem supplying unprofitable. If enough countries are no longer capable of purchasing the goods and services of foreign companies, developed nations will face overproduction.
The rush for the COVID-19 vaccine has practically eliminated the chances of poorer countries receiving it in time. This will most likely lead to the prolonged misery of people who cannot work. Industries contract as they do not make enough profit, which leads to many people losing their jobs. Moreover, those employees who do retain their positions are affected by the virus, which renders them incapable of working. The pandemic has negatively impacted the workforce in every field. The lack of jobs means a deficit of finances, which translates into the falling purchasing power, which, in its turn, causes foreign corporations to close their local affiliates.
The lack of a COVID vaccine has an effect on the treatment of other prominent diseases. The shifting of people, resources, and places to combat the coronavirus has stalled the efforts to combat tuberculosis, AIDS, and other illnesses, which require attention (Nhamo 10). The longer countries are incapable of vaccinating their populations, the more people will contract the virus. Despite all lockdown measures, the movement of people allows infectious diseases to transmit internationally. Furthermore, developed countries rely on third-world populations for cheap labor. Thus, the growth of the infected people in poorer economies threatens the wealthy countries.
The third result of vaccine hoarding is social strife in low-income countries. Lockdown measures have led to protests across many nations. The reason for social discontent lay in the absence of job opportunities, which left many without their sources of income. The world economy has experienced a record recession, which exacerbated the living conditions in countries with already fragile economic systems. As the unemployment rate grows and governments cannot allow the economies to function on a pre-COVID level, violence will likely increase, and radical ideas of forcefully changing the established order may take root.
It should be noted that the pandemic did not create social inequality in the first place. The income gap between classes as well as countries had existed long before the first cases of COVID were identified. The pandemic has exacerbated the already worsening situation. The phenomenon of vaccine hoarding also has precedents. Nhamo writes that “during the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, all vaccines on the market were sold out, having been channeled to wealthy nations” (5). The author proceeds to clarify that Australia refused to share the vaccine until its citizens were vaccinated, while Canada and the United States did not export at all.
Inability to manage the pandemic on the domestic level can fracture authorities of poor countries. If governments are toppled, the world community may face authoritarian regimes or military dictatorships. Furthermore, extreme poverty is a favorable platform for the spread of extremist ideologies. With no opportunity to work at home due to the lockdown and the absence of a vaccine, people will be tempted to resort to illegal activities and possible terrorist organizations. Given the interconnectedness of the modern world, all of these potential developments can affect developed countries. Some rich nations also experience upheaval, which is evidenced by the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. Combined with foreign influence, developed countries jeopardize themselves by uncontrollably buying vaccines.
Altogether, it should be evident that the concentration of vaccines in the possession of rich nations creates a multitude of threats to international stability. Low-income countries have no prospect of vaccinating their citizens in the nearest future. Yet, the number of COVID cases keeps growing, forcing governments to divert all resources to combating this healthcare issue. The weak state of poor countries causes corporations to leave the markets. At the same time, political and social upheaval takes place, leading to higher radical sentiment. If developing countries do not receive the vaccine, the wealthy ones will have to manage the resulting chaos in the third world.
Nhamo, Godwell, et al. “COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments Nationalism: Challenges for Low-income Countries and the Attainment of the SDGs.” Global Public Health, 2020, pp. 1-21.