For nearly 2 years now, we as a global community have been concerned with one thing: the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve gone through the mask debate, the stay-at-home orders, and the transition back to work. However, one thing has been placed as the focal point of current conversation: the vaccine.

The vaccine has been a vessel for both conversation and debate these past months. Particularly when it comes to discussing how quickly it was developed and produced, distributed and regarding concerns on its authenticity and ethics.

Photo of Anti-Vaccination Protesters in Calgary

Vaccine Distribution

Vaccine distribution is a massive issue that is not being discussed as much as it should. It is a conversation termed as vaccine inequality. Today, the percentage of people fully vaccinated in Canada has reached 70.6%. This is largely due to how vaccines have been made available within the country. Although not perfect, the fact that the Covid vaccine is widely accessible through free cost, and availability across drugstores and other designated locations has allowed for widespread distribution.

In comparison to the percentage of people vaccinated within developing countries such as Tanzania, Sudan and Nicaragua, the percentages range from 4% to less than 1%. This is extremely disheartening as it communicates how relatively available this vaccine is. The pandemic has affected every country and it isn’t limited in its effect.

I bring this up because when we look at how many vaccines a day are being wasted, it’s often due to developed countries hoarding doses. This has led to the point where many vaccines  are being wasted daily; it emphasizes how these other countries’ populations are not receiving proper vaccination plans and access. Much of this is due to the protections placed on large pharmaceutical companies by the government. These companies are protected by legislation and have become indestructible. In reality, they don’t want to provide an affordable vaccine. This is a large risk factor for many developed countries as many times the money to provide for these vaccines just is not there.

We’re now in a position where  we as a nation have practically the majority of our population having the vaccine and if they are genuinely exempt from vaccination due to health issues such as being immunocompromised.

Another problem is that even if these countries don’t have these vaccines, many of them have a massive population, and many don’t have the proper amenities such as ventilators and hospital beds to take care of infected patients. This is not taking into account non-COVID patients who also have pressing medical concerns and emergencies.

This distribution and inequality surrounding the vaccine is not just limited to a global issue, as nationally we face our own  problems within Indigenous communities and vaccination distribution.

For example,  dozens of Indigenous peoples received expired vaccination doses in Ontario. The doses expired on August 9 yetwere administered until September 9th. Vaccine administrators were so unaware of what vaccines were being distributed that they didn’t know the exact number of people that were vaccinated within this community of 71 people. This is just one story that has gone public, imagine how many other people in different communities are receiving the same treatment.

Nationally, we also dispose of many unused vaccines every day. This is extremely concerning because while communities and countries aren’t receiving enough  vaccines, many places within Canada are unable to administer  vaccines within the 30 days it’s set to keep in the freezer. This calls to attention why Canada is unable to order the correct amount of vaccines, and why vaccine distribution to some communities is unable to be done properly.

This issue of distribution and inequality surrounding the vaccine is not just limited to globally but nationally we face a large problem within indigenous communities and vaccination distribution.

Within Ontario, dozens of indigenous peoples received expired vaccination doses. The doses expired on August 9 and were administered all through till September 9th. Vaccine administrators are so unaware of what vaccines are being given out that they don’t even know the exact number of people that were taxed within this community of 71 people. Not only this, this is just one story that has gone public, in fact, we don’t know how many people in different communities are receiving the same treatment.

Nationally we also dispose of many unused vaccines every day. This is extremely concerning because while other communities and countries aren’t receiving the correct amount of vaccines, many places within Canada can’t use the vaccines within the 30 days it’s set to keep in the freezer. This plays a larger issue of Canada keeping and then throwing out vaccines that are given to them. Nationally speaking, why can we not order the correct amount of vaccines, allowing for vaccine distribution to other communities to be done properly?

It also points a finger at a more systemic issue within the care of Indigenous communities in Canada. The lack of care and attentiveness that are given to these communities that are already receiving the short of the stick should be noted. It is a sign of a future in which Indigenous people don’t receive the care they deserve

Progressively, vaccine distribution has been getting better, but globally developing countries are projected to be fully vaccinated by 2023. If issues that are happening within Indigenous communities in Canada begin to happen in developing nations, will these received vaccines be safe to use? By this, I mean are all of them going to be distributed in a manner that allows for vaccinations to not be expired as they are distributed?

Vaccine Misinformation

As we are attempting to transition into a life of normalcy; a life we haven’t had a view of in quite some time, the vaccine has become a ticket for many of us back to order. It also provides security and safety for many individuals who are immunocompromised who require others to be vaccinated  to survive.

However, the vaccine has also been subject to extreme amounts of ridicule on safety and  its purpose. There have been statements like “my body, my choice” or “if you’re concerned, you get the vaccine, but because I’m not, i dont need one”. These beliefs are  extremely damaging not only due to misinformation existing, but further exacerbated in how easily it spreads misinformation on the viability of the vaccine.

Photo from an American Anti-Vaccination Protest

From the onset of the vaccine and its creation, the main concern was the government controlling the lives of people in the country. There was talk of bodily autonomy and how the “chip” would be put into the lives of individuals getting the vaccine, allowing the government to track all our movements. People also viewed the vaccine as being all-around dangerous and concerning. Some took it as  a sign of the government controlling our bodies.

The conversation of Anti-Vaccination remains rampant. Some view vaccines themselves as being dangerous. Stories regarding blood clots forming, as well as other health concerns were brought into the mix. This is one of the main reasons people viewed the vaccine as being dangerous. False claims stated it  was “forced” and wasn’t tested as much as it should have been. People also reasoned because COVID-19 did not affect them, they did not need it. They claimed to trust their immune system enough to fight off the virus.

Not only is misinformationdangerous for those who are immunocompromised, but it becomes a much larger issue when this discourse involves “protesting” in front of hospitals. Hospitals within Edmonton, specifically the Royal Alexandra Hospital, faced large issues with protesting outside of hospitals. Hospitals don’t make legislation, governments do. Whether or not one believes in the right to choose or are pro-vaccine, creating dangerous environments that cause significant issues within the hospital, should be denounced and cease to exist.

Lastly, we have individuals who assume that this is a humanitarian issue. It infringes on rights; for example, I recently had a conversation with an anti-vaxxer who referred to the argument of being vaccinated or anti-vaccination as a modern-day example of Social Darwinism. I do not condone attacking or belittling anyone who views the vaccine as dangerous, but I believe there should be a conversation surrounding education. If individuals believe that the anti-vaccination vs. pro-vaccination debate is similar to Social Darwinism, that is a serious sign of the lack of vaccination education.

As we begin to mandate  vaccine passports and continue to vaccinate the majority of the individuals within Alberta, we must focus on making sure that the right information is being spread. Moving towards a reality in which travelling, shopping, and living return to a state of normalcy e is the main focus. It is not a local or national issue; this is global. Each of us want the best for humanity. We all want to return to routine, but ensuring that vaccinations are safe and administered safely, timely and correctly is the main priority as we continue dealing with the pandemic. 

Further resources: I have included some links to donate to vaccine distributions in developing countries as well as links to more information on Covid-19.

Covid-19 Vaccine Resources

Unicef Donate a Vaccine

CDC Vaccine Information

Islamic Relief; Donate a Vaccine to Yemen and Palestine

Ministry of Health Vaccine Information

Alberta Covid-19 Vaccines and Records