The UK’s efforts in delivering the COVID-19 vaccinations has been phenomenal. We now have over 50% of the population fully vaccinated and a further 25% have received one jab. This along with those not yet vaccinated who have had a dose of the virus means we should be moving towards herd immunity.
However, there are a lot of countries which are still to see vaccination take off. We cannot rest on our laurels whilst this is the case. There is first of all, a moral imperative here. The reality is that in the 1/3 world, our wealth and cultural heritage meant that we got the vaccines first because they were developed through western university research and our governments were able to get their orders in first and stockpile more vaccines than we needed. It is concerning that there is even a bit of a health lottery within the UK with some parts of the country further ahead in rolling out the jabs however that is nothing compared to the challenges facing the 2/3 world. COVID will increase suffering and poverty in places where people have already suffered so much in life.
There is also a pragmatic reason for helping to vaccinate other countries. In a global society, we cannot really talk about herd immunity in the context of one country. We’ve already got a taste for the kind of problem we might experience twice over. First of all, we saw what happened when a variant developed in India and we didn’t close the borders in time, then we saw how quickly the decision to put Portugal on our green list was reversed when fears developed about another mutation.
So long as there are countries where the majority of people are unvaccinated then there is the potential for new, vaccine resistant variants to mutate. So long as COVID-19 is at significant levels around the world, even countries that have implemented vaccination programmes cannot relax but will have to keep a vigilant eye on the borders.
Therefore I hope that the UK and other countries that have been able to benefit from speedy role out will swiftly move to help vaccinate in other countries both by supplying surplus vaccines and by providing logistical help and personnel to get those vaccines delivered.