In recent weeks a booster or third dose of the vaccines has been strongly recommended given the evidence that shows that, after 8 months of application, the antibodies decrease considerably and it is estimated that to sustain the protection, it is necessary to apply a third dose. This measure is necessary in order to continue the efforts to contain the virus and reduce its lethality.
However, no matter how rational this decision may be, the world scenario throws data on the vaccination process that makes the ethical implications of this measure questionable. According to the Our World in Data site, only 33.4% of the world’s population is vaccinated with at least one dose, but what is alarming is that, of these, only 1.6% of the population living in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
This confirms not only the slow progress of vaccination in the world but that it is not the same in countries with greater resources than in those with greater deficiencies. This inequality cannot be ignored when a third dose is already considered, knowing that there are millions of people who still do not receive even the first.
By principle of subsidiarity, there can be no justice unless the unequal basic conditions are repaired, this means that there is no possible justice without due compensation to improve the conditions of the least favored.
When everyone’s life is at risk, justice must be understood globally and dimensioned in its international relations and not just local ones. The pandemic is everyone’s business, global vaccination should be too.
In this perspective, justice should not be sought only within a country and between fellow citizens but also and, above all, at its borders and in its dynamic relations with other countries.
There is a shared responsibility among all countries but especially in those with greater possibilities to produce or compare doses of vaccines against COVID-19. Evading their commitment to an act of global justice will amount to more deaths that will constitute an irreparable social debt.
Thus, for every third dose acquired in an economically sound and stable country, someone will become ill or die in an economically unstable and impoverished country.
Each country must protect its population but also and at the same time understand that it is intrinsically connected with others and that if we want to control the virus in a few years we will have to do it together. We have already seen for more than a year and a half that the virus knows no borders and that what happens at one end of the planet has repercussions on the other, why continue to define a fight that is not unilateral?
The hoarding of vaccines by some countries will translate, sooner or later, into the poverty of others that will not be able to save the lives of their citizens. If we have not understood it yet, we have not understood anything about this pandemic either.
It is undeniable that a third dose is required after a few months and that protection must be provided, but it is also undeniable that there are those who need it more than others, as has happened with many other resources in this pandemic. Selecting those who, due to their risk conditions, deserve it the most and focusing efforts on them will only allow them to continue reaching vaccines in impoverished countries and for many more people to receive their first dose. This is not a total refusal to the third dose, but a distribution that is not only selective based on objective risk factors, but is also fair.
Each vaccine represents a life and each vaccine given to a person who does not require it urgently, is one more life that will be lost. How many lives will we be willing to continue losing?
Elizabeth de los Ríos Uriarte