Vaccinnationalism is a word that along with corona distance, flock immunity and hobby epidemiologist has been added to my vocabulary over the past year. Vaccine nationalism refers to when high-income countries sign agreements with vaccine manufacturers to ensure that their own population is vaccinated as quickly as possible. Protecting one's own is a natural and human behavior, but the problem is that the coronavirus and its mutations do not care about national borders. Already last summer, the World Health Organization warned for the consequences of an over-nationalist prioritization of global vaccine distribution. They believed that the globalized society we live in means that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
In addition to the lack of global solidarity leading to uncertainty about when, or even if, the pandemic will end, the vaccine nationalist arguments also testify to a postcolonial worldview. IN an interview with SVT News says the British right-wing debater and also vaccine nationalist Tom Harwood the following:
- On airplanes, we often hear "put on your own oxygen mask first before you help someone else". It is important to do this, not to put on the mask and then ignore everyone else, but you can not help someone else if you yourself can not breathe.
Harwood has some points. It is difficult to help someone else if you yourself suffer from a lack of oxygen - which is also a reason why vaccination of healthcare professionals has a high priority. What I question in Harwood's statement is the view of his own and his country's position of power. Why is it the UK's mission to help 'the others'? What if "the others" had done well on their own if they had only been given the same conditions and access to vaccines? Using the analogy of oxygen masks on an airplane will diminish other countries' ability to take care of themselves.
Of course, there should be some form of order of priority when the covid-19 vaccine is distributed worldwide. But that high-income countries are first in the queue and legitimize it by saying that it would be for the sake of the rest of the world, is both absurd and illogical. Is it not time, once and for all, to come to terms with colonialist power structures and allow the countries of the world to meet the challenges of the pandemic on the same terms? Without solidarity vaccine distribution, there is a risk that global inequality will not only be maintained, but also exacerbated.