Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
For many, the idea of a COVID-19 vaccine being on the horizon is a lifeline; a gleaming beacon in what has been an inarguably bleak few months. However, as an article by Tomas Pueyo states, “the mitigation strategy… gambles on the fact that the virus won’t mutate too much – which we know it does.” A mutating virus, therefore, has the potential to outgrow any vaccine created.
Like all crises threatening the capitalist system, the unequal corners of society are dispersed disproportionately, effecting predominantly the working class, ethnic minorities, and women. On a global scale, this means developing countries.
In many such countries, it is simply not possible to “stay home” and to “socially distance”. Communities in these countries often live in such close proximity to one another, and indeed to animals, that a two metre divide between them would be physically impossible. So, untold numbers in the developing world go on unsupported; more likely to contract the virus and more likely to die without adequate healthcare.
Impoverished countries simply do not have the infrastructure to uphold the new global requirements in containing the spread of COVID-19. In the event that a vaccine is distributed globally, without adequate infrastructure developing nations will face significant difficulties in fully immunising their populations. Therefore, the reinstation of travel between developing countries – for business and tourism – creates the distinct possibility for a second global outbreak, even if many Western nations successfully vaccinate their populations.
An irony must be found within this possibility. Currently supporting the Western world is an international system rife with global inequality. However, to protect Western populations a universal infrastructure of healthcare funding must now necessarily be implemented to survive.
When the foreign policy of colonising superpowers has been for so long to exploit and oppress the developing world, the irony of this situation is not lost. A world without the exploitation of developing nations by the Western world is, at this point, unimaginable. What the current global crisis shows, however, is that to fail to support the growth of the developing world is not only to neglect their citizens but to put directly at risk all the world’s population.
This problem can still be solved. The world’s most powerful economies have the power to put trillions of dollars into a global effort targeting both a COVID-19 vaccine and strengthening the developing world. By putting this into place, the global system has a chance to control the virus and mitigate its consequences. I hope to see this surprising turn of events; a heroic rescue of international health and the strengthening of developing nations’ infrastructures. Yet, my expectations differ and only time will tell what the solutions will be.