December 7, 2021

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Lesson of the Day: ‘Rich Countries Signed Away a Chance to Vaccinate the World’

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7. What is your reaction to what you have read in this excerpt? How does it help to better understand the factors creating the global vaccine inequalities you explored in the warm-up activity? What questions do you still have?

Note: Those students who would like to learn more might opt to read the entire article and present the additional information to their classmates.

Option 1: Learn more about the human impact of global vaccine inequality

In “Some Nations Could Wait Years for Covid Shots. That’s Bad for Everyone.” Abdi Latif Dahir and Benjamin Mueller write that while richer places, such as the U.S., hope to vaccinate most of their citizens within months, poorer countries, like Kenya, expect to reach just small fractions of their populations in that time:

NAIROBI, Kenya — The nurse lay in bed this month, coughing, wheezing and dizzy with fever.

It was three months after rich countries began vaccinating health workers, but Kenyans like the nurse, Stella Githaiga, had been left behind: Employed in the country’s largest public hospital, she caught the coronavirus on an outreach trip to remote communities in February, she believes, sidelining her even as Kenya struggles with a vicious third surge of infections.

Ms. Githaiga and her colleagues are victims of one of the most galling inequities in a pandemic that has exposed so many: Across the global south, health workers are being sickened and killed by a virus from which doctors and nurses in many rich countries are now largely protected.

Read the entire article, then tell us your reaction: What are the political, economic and health impacts on developing countries that are unable to get access to vaccines, such as Kenya? What is the toll on continents, like Africa, which has 17 percent of the world’s people but so far has administered roughly 2 percent of the vaccine doses given globally? How did reading more on this topic add to your understanding? Did it change your perspective on the featured article? Share three takeaways from what you learned with your class.

Option 2: Make a recommendation to President Biden

The Biden administration pledged $4 billion to the global vaccination drive. In addition, it plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada and is partnering with Japan, India and Australia to expand global vaccine manufacturing capacity. Do you think America is doing enough to address vaccine access across the world? Or should it be doing more?

If you were advising Mr. Biden, what would you recommend that he do to address the stark inequalities in the global distribution of Covid-19 vaccines? Should he pressure pharmaceutical companies to expand access to less affluent countries? Or is there a better way to close the global gap?

To help you make your recommendations to the president, you might read some of these recent Times articles and opinion essays:

Biden Takes First Tentative Steps to Address Global Vaccine Shortage

The Era of Vaccine Diplomacy Is Here

The U.S. Is Sitting on Tens of Millions of Vaccine Doses the World Needs

Let Our Doses Go!

Beyond The Times, you might also look at these resources:

Covid Lessons From Bush’s Effort Against AIDS (Wall Street Journal)

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