Does privilege allow you to forget about other issues in the world?

Only 35 countries have full access to vaccines. (Photo: Shutterstock).

By Lucia Dore

Is it not time that those who live in a so-called developed country- those who are privileged - take time to celebrate the simple things in life rather than always striving to become ever more successful? - however that success is measured.

I ask that question because I have been listening to many podcasts and reading articles over the recent holiday break about how we can become better and richer by honing our skills and expertise- leadership or management skills, for example. This is a luxury that largely pertains to the developed world, 35 countries in 2020 to be specific, according to the UN. That's not very many and the developed countries are all in either North America, Europe, developed Asia or the Pacific. There are a total of 195 countries in the world, so 35 is not a lot.

The disparity between the developed and developing world has grown worse because of the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University, noted at the UN that "we have had a global catastrophe without adequate global cooperation."

He highlighted the fact that some countries have deployed massive resources -estimated at USD 16 trillion – to prop up their economies, while others have been left without strong support to recover. This is a stark reminder of the inequalities in the world economy.

The disparity between the haves and the have-nots was brought home to me recently when I was speaking with two friends – one in London and one in Hue City in Vietnam. The person in London, who is in her 70s, had contracted coronavirus (the Delta version, I presume), and had been hospitalised and had breathing problems. She had not been vaccinated, even though it was free to the end-user.

In contrast, the person in Vietnam, to whom I teach English, was desperate to be vaccinated but he would have to pay for every jab. The most expensive vaccine was Pfizer, which was what he wanted. The first time he went to the hospital, he said there were about 500 people queuing for a jab so he was told to go home and come back the next day. Outside the capital, Hanoi, and the largest city in the South, Ho Chi Min City, there were a shortage of vaccinations as they were sent to the largest cities first.

The person in Vietnam now has had two vaccinations, and wants to get a booster shot, while the person in London has decided that getting a first jab might be a good idea.

I also listened to a podcast on Peru, which has suffered more than any other country in the world as a percentage of population from coronavirus. Many children have been left without parents or caregivers. Its official death toll is over 200,000 with a population of about 33 million. However, the number of people vaccinated has increased from 2 per cent in May 2021 to 69.7 per cent in mid-December.

These situations increased my awareness of the highly inequitable distribution of vaccines around the world.

And although increasingly society is divided by those who are vaccinated and those who are not, a schism has occurred even between the vaccinated. I live in New Zealand, and a friend from the North Island, which has seen a higher number of cases than the South Island, was unable to see her sister in the south of the South Island because she had come from a "more infected" part of the country. She is about to get her booster shot. New Zealand has had 14,306 cases and 51 deaths with a population of just under 5 million.

The divide that coronavirus has created in all societies around the world, often because of government mandates, needs to be addressed. Some countries are certainly in a privileged position. Surely, resolving this divide is more important than being successful?

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Thursday, 27 January 2022