By Michael Addai
The emergence of new variants is what happens when others decide to monopolize and hoard vaccines and refuse to share them equitably and fairly to allow a bit of pre-pandemic normalcy.
While others are receiving booster shots after the 1st and 2nd shots, others, somewhere, are yet to receive a single shot, giving room, the freedom, and the opportunity for this SARS-CoV-2 virus, from the family of coronaviruses, which causes COVID-19 to mutate, unimpeded, to scary variants — only God knows what next — like this new Omicron variant.
When the original coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 infections, SARS-CoV-2, was first detected and identified in the Wuhan province in China, it was allowed to spread unconstrained and uncontrollably due to secrecy and lack of transparency. As a result, it was not taken seriously by the authorities, and it got out of hand and became a pandemic. Again, the initial abject scorn for/resistance to the science, the lack of desire/enthusiasm to follow the science and the lack of seriousness with the pandemic by some authorities gave the SARS-CoV-2 virus the freedom to mutate unrestricted to its various variants like the Alpha variant — first detected and identified in the UK, followed by the Beta variant — first detected and identified in Brazil, and then the Delta variant (the most virulent so far) — first detected and identified in India. And now the latest, Omicron variant, in South Africa due to lack of enough vaccinations.
Fortunately, the science (and with the divine providence and guidance of the Almighty) has helped to provide the world with the tools e.g. the vaccines, following public health guidelines and protocols to fight this pandemic. Nonetheless, majority of those dismissive of the COVID-19 vaccinations (in abundance of vaccines) and scornful of advice to adhere to public health measures are dying needlessly whilst others eager to have the vaccines, do not even have access to them at all due to selfishness and greediness on the part of others.
On one hand, the so-called rich industrialized countries have done their level best to cater for, look out for and prioritize their citizens before others which is itself understandable enough and the right thing to do but to use their manufacturing base to monopolize the ordering of the vaccines from the vaccine manufacturers and hoarding them to an extent of allowing them to expire in order to, eventually, destroy them (the surplus) is scandalous and inhuman, to say the least.
On the other hand, the pharmaceutical companies, the vaccine manufacturers, appear to put profits before human lives and are feverishly and shamelessly selling the vaccines to the highest bidder to rake in huge profits while monopolizing and denying the technology to poor countries to develop cheaper (in price) versions. This is sad, to say the least.
Now, it appears the South Africans are being punished with travel bans and restrictions for their transparency by identifying this new Omicron variant and sharing this crucial information with the world. Just imagine if this variant had not been detected by the South Africans and shared with the world but had been detected elsewhere in the world where secrecy (and lack of transparency) is the norm and part of life e.g. the place where the original coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, responsible for COVID-19 was first detected and identified.
Experience has shown us that monopolizing, hoarding vaccines, and closing borders are not going to stop this SARS-CoV-2 virus and its variants from spreading anywhere in the world. These unilateral selfish measures only give short-term temporary relief, but life disruptions and economic damage are long-term as the rich and poor are all in this together, in the same boat.
This new mutant variant (Omicron) might well turn out to be harmless in the end, and not as scary as its features (mutations) indicate but until everyone gets the opportunity to be vaccinated everywhere, really no one is safe anywhere in this era of COVID-19.
Sharing is caring and we have got to do better than what is being done with the vaccine distribution. There is no point in not being very serious with this COVID-19 pandemic. We should stop continuing shooting ourselves in the foot with greediness and selfishness in the vaccine distribution if we really want to get over this pandemic and get used to our new normal i.e. vaccinations, testing and adherence to public health measures.
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