In a fast-paced world where trends change every day and news loses its grip on audiences within mere minutes, it’s no surprise that the world has grown tired of the pandemic. This phenomenon has been dubbed ‘pandemic fatigue’.
It’s almost as if the COVID-19 pandemic experience is a TV show that has gone on for one season too long: on the one hand people are losing interest in it, on the other, they’re eager to see how it ends.
Sadly, this fatigue can only prolong the very pandemic that we want to see the end of. If COVID-19 falls out of headlines and conversations, those who are being devastatingly affected by it — and without the resources to protect themselves from it — will be left behind, as wealthier nations will freely move on to business as usual pre-pandemic.
Rich countries rushing to hoard vaccine doses has been one of the causes of vaccine droughts in poorer nations this year, and if we let pandemic fatigue get the better of us and we do not hold those guilty of vaccine nationalism accountable, those who need vaccines will not get them.
To make sure that we don’t lose sight of the mission to end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere, we’ve decided to provide motivation to continue the call for vaccine equity by compiling a list of reasons from activists and experts, on why it’s important to continue to fight for vaccine equity, even if we’re tired of hearing about the pandemic.
1. Vaccine nationalism increases the risk of new variants
Eh!Woza is a South Africa-based organisation, run by scientists, that works to teach young people the science behind viruses and diseases. They do this by creating engaging content that the youth can connect with and understand.
When we asked them why it’s important to fight for vaccine equity despite pandemic fatigue, this is what Anastasia Koch and Cheleka Mpande, two of the brains behind Eh!Woza, had to say:
“No one is safe until everyone is safe. Inequity majorly increases the risk that new variants will arise, that could be more transmissible and even more fatal.”
The creative hub of scientists believes that keeping this in mind should be motivation enough to keep striving for equity. The organisation also produces content to help curb vaccine hesitancy and bust any misinformation regarding COVID-19 and the vaccines.
This animated video that they shared with Global Citizen, shows us in under a minute why everyone needs to get the vaccine, highlighting the importance of herd immunity as an end goal.
2. The pandemic is not just a health issue, it impacts almost everything
Aisha Abdool Karim
One person who has every reason to be tired of the pandemic is Senior Health Journalist at South Africa’s leading health news platform, Bhekisisa, Aisha Abdool Karim. She has specialised in COVID-19 news coverage and has been studying the developments and reporting on the ins and outs of COVID-19 since the beginning.
Despite dealing with the details of COVID-19 daily, she told Global Citizen that it’s so important to keep COVID-19 top of mind because it has an impact on other pertinent social issues.
“There are several important issues that deserve our attention, and they should get it, but this pandemic is far-reaching and has long term effects which is why we cannot afford to lose interest in it,” she said, “Health is essential to every sector and its importance has simply been highlighted during this time. No part of society has been untouched by this virus.”
“It’s not about diverting attention away from other things or away from the pandemic. It’s about refocusing our view of the world and reflecting that in our coverage.”
3. Everyone, everywhere benefits from vaccine sharing, not just those in poorer countries
In an opinion piece published in the Guardian, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, slammed Johnson and Johnson’s export of vaccines to Europe despite need in Africa. In the piece he called out vaccine nationalism and highlighted the injustice in wealthy nations having access to vaccines while poor nations, particularly in Africa, fall behind in the vaccine rollouts.
"Ensuring African populations have access to vaccines is not just an imperative for Africa, it's in all our enlightened self-interest," Brown wrote, as a wake up call for wealthy vaccine hoarding nations. "We must keep reminding ourselves of the reason for ensuring the mass vaccination of the entire world: no one is safe anywhere until everyone is safe everywhere, and everyone will live in fear until nobody does.”
4. Access to vaccines should not come with a cost
Human Rights lawyer and public health advocate, Fatima Hassan, isn’t one to stay quiet on the matter of access to vaccines. She’s raised her voice time and time again to call for a people’s vaccine, which will not profit off of the needs of people in need, and is freely and easily accessible to all.
Scrolling through her Twitter feed, it’s evident that she is a massive advocate for vaccine equity and most recently, Hassan co-authored an editorial that pointed out the injustices of pharmaceutical companies profiting from COVID-19 vaccine production. On its release she said:
“One of the saddest and angriest, but inspiring, projects I have been involved in, is co-authoring this,” she said, “it draws on work, energy and anger of so many frontline workers, doctors, scientists and activists for a people's vaccine. We see you. We have to speak up.
5. Vaccine inequity could cost lives
Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng
Social media savvy HIV specialist and UNAIDS special rapporteur, Dr Tlaleng Mofokeng, does not only use her expertise and platforms to inform the public about HIV and AIDS, she’s been particularly vocal on the importance of vaccine equity and making sure that the public are in the know about all developments in COVID-19 vaccines and what that means for Africa.
Most recently she voiced her opinion on Johnson and Johnson producing vaccines in Africa that were only to be shipped to Europe, despite dire need for vaccines on the African continent.
“People are already dying because of vaccine inequity. Both as a result of governments that have not been able to plan but also, very importantly, the role of pharmaceutical companies in a global pandemic,” she told the Herald.
She continues to use her platforms to openly share her expertise and knowledge on the impact that not equitably sharing vaccines will have on vulnerable communities in Africa.
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