Covid is not over: now it is crucial to close the global inequality in vaccinations

by Sara Albiani, Oxfam Italia global health policy advisor

For almost 3 months now, the attention of the media and the public debate on the Covid-19 pandemic has been strongly dropped in the face of the Ukrainian drama. However, the health crisis has by no means ceased. In recent days, in fact, the World Health Organization recalled that although infections and deaths from Covid-19 continue to decrease, we are witnessing an increase in cases in Latin America and Africa due to the sub-variants Omicron. It is too early to know whether they are capable of causing more serious diseases than previous ones, but early data suggests that vaccination remains protective against serious illness and death.

In low-income countries, only 13% of the population is still vaccinated today

Immunizing at least 70% of the population of each country remains the best way to save lives and protect people at the same time health systems, minimizing the cases of long-Covid. However, the distribution of vaccines remains to this day dramatically unequal: in low-income countries only 13% of the population has been vaccinated with a full initial cycle, while in high-income countries the same percentage is close to 75%. At the same time, even the most effective antivirals recently developed are still not accessible in low- and middle-income countries due to low availability and high prices, direct consequences of the monopoly system enjoyed by the pharmaceutical companies that hold their patents.

Lack of access to vaccines is widening inequalities, delaying recovery

The lack of access to vaccines and treatments against Covid-19 by the poorest populations is a striking example of how inequalities intersect: the lack of access to vaccines widens the gap between rich and poor countries, delaying the global recovery. which in turn triggers the economic, gender and racial inequalities caused by the pandemic. Even in high-income countries like Italy, with a health system universalisticthe pandemic has had a dramatic repercussion on the exercise of the right to health and on real access to quality care, especially for the most disadvantaged sections of the population, highlighting the weaknesses and contradictions of a system that is not always able to guarantee fairness.

Reflect to look ahead

We will talk about all this on 13 May from 10 to 12 in Florence on the occasion of the first edition ofOxfam Festivalwho will host the meeting entitled “Health: equity and rights” at the Istituto degli Innocenti in Florence, together with Walter Ricciardi, Scientific Advisor to the Minister of Health, Francesca Fiorino, of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, Alberto Zanobini , Director General of the Meyer Pediatric Hospital in Florence, Salvatore Geraci, of the Italian Society of Migration Medicine, Claudio Martini, former president of the Tuscany Region, Samuele Greco, medical coordinator in Sierra Leone of Emergency.

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