Kovid’s burden is shifting towards the Global South

The Americans, after all, are putting an epidemic behind them. Now that Omicron is in the rearview mirror and cases are dwindling, even many of those who have been vigilant for the past two years are describing “going back to normal” and “living with COVID-19”. This mentality also translates into policy: the last epidemic is fading nationwide, and in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Joe Biden declared that “most Americans can remove their masks, return to work, stay in the classroom, and be safe.” Go ahead. ” Other rich, highly vaccinated countries are following the same path. In the UK, for example, those with COVID-19 no longer need to be self-isolated. It helps that these countries have higher doses of vaccines than they know what to do and a stockpile of equipment to test and treat their residents when they are sick.

But in the global south, COVID-19 is much harder to ignore. More than a year after the mass vaccination campaign began, nearly 3 billion people are still waiting for their first shot. Although an average of 80 percent of people in high-income countries receive at least one dose, this figure stands at only 13 percent in low-income countries. In the poorest countries, virtually no booster shots were operated. Such low vaccination rates are taking their toll. Although the official death toll in India is around 500,000, for example, the reality may be closer to 5 million additional deaths – and most of these deaths have occurred since the introduction of the vaccine in the global north.

The rush to declare an epidemic “end” in rich countries as it continues to devastate the global South is entirely predictable – in fact, the same trend has been seen over and over again. Infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS, which are now seen as “Third World diseases”, were once a serious threat in rich countries, but when the incidence of these diseases began to decline there, the global answer went ahead and reduced investment in new equipment. And programs. Now, with COVID-19, the developing world is once again left to fend for itself against a highly contagious virus without the necessary vaccine doses, tests and treatment equipment. Some epidemics do not really end-they disappear to people in the north of the world.

You know malaria is a contagious disease that affects poor “tropical” countries. But for thousands of years, malaria has been a global threat. During the 20th century alone, the disease was estimated to be responsible for up to 5 percent of all human deaths. It was wiped out from the global north by the 1970s, but the rest of the world fell behind. By 2020, there were an estimated 240 million malaria cases and about 627,000 deaths, almost all occurred in sub-Saharan Africa. The earth had to wait for a disease that affected our Neolithic ancestors as well 2021 For the first malaria vaccine. Although the World Health Organization recently approved this partially effective malaria vaccine, increased production and scale-up plans remain undecided.

A similar phenomenon has been found in the case of tuberculosis, a disease so old that DNA of TB bacteria has been detected in Egyptian mummies. Tuberculosis, once called “use”, was very common in Europe and North America. From the 1600s to the 1800s, TB caused 25 percent of all deaths in Europe. By 1980, the number of tuberculosis patients in the West had dropped significantly, mainly thanks to drug treatment and poverty reduction. But again, TB remains a problem in developing countries (and marginalized populations in the northern hemisphere). In 2020, TB killed 1.5 million people, more than 80 percent of whom lived in low- and middle-income countries. Investment and innovation to make the disease less destructive have been scarce: for example, the TB vaccine we use today is more than 100 years old and its effectiveness is limited in adults.

Unlike malaria and tuberculosis, HIV / AIDS was detected only 40 years ago, and we still see the same trend. Since the outbreak of the infection in the early 1980s, it has evolved from a state that has become a global epidemic affecting only gay men in the global North, which, yes, mostly affects the South today. In 2020, approximately 38 million people worldwide were living with HIV and 680,000 people died of AIDS-related illnesses, two-thirds of which occurred in Africa. When effective antiretroviral drugs were first available in the early 1990’s, they were expensive and accessible to people in predominantly high-income countries. Incredible activism and year after year efforts were made to reach the world south for these life-saving devices and millions of people (mostly Africans) died as a result of this inaction. Even today, we do not have a cure for AIDS.

Despite the constant toll of these “big three” infectious diseases, they are rarely referred to as epidemics. “By epidemic we mean an epidemic that no longer kills people in rich countries,” wrote Peter Sands, CEO of the Global Fund, an international group fighting the disease. “Endemic means a disease that the world can get rid of but has not. HIV / AIDS, TB and malaria are epidemics that have been defeated in rich countries. Allowing them to survive elsewhere is a policy choice and a budget decision. “

With the coronavirus, the world is going backwards again. Rich nations are already rapidly losing interest, and if the virus continues to spread in these regions, they may see less urgency in sharing vaccines and other resources, stop investing in new products to fight the virus, and initially take on the burden of disease control. Can In resource-constrained low-income countries. Wealthy countries such as the United States have donated millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to the Global Access Facility (COVAX), but citing supply problems, the initiative failed to meet half of its 2 billion dose target last year. .

Even if rich countries continue to offer charities and grants, they are less likely to support efforts that allow low-income countries to gather and build their own tools to fight the virus. HIV drugs became affordable in the South of the world only when countries like India started making their own generic pills. COVID-19 vaccines should be similar to make them more accessible. Following Omicron, some have suggested that it is too late to meet WHO’s goal of vaccinating 70 percent of the world by mid-2022. While we should redouble our efforts to increase vaccination, it is too late for the world to be vaccinated.

The developed world is repeating its mistake again and this will have devastating consequences for billions of people. Diseases that become “continental” should not be coded for inactivity or lack of consideration for those with limited resources and many vulnerabilities – both in the global north and in the global south. Even when they are invisible to anyone, high mortality and infection rates are not considered acceptable or normal.

For now, the biggest problem with the global response to declaring the coronavirus epidemic “over” is that it reveals The opposite The result will ultimately be the push to tune COVID-19, even in rich countries. Allowing the spread of infectious diseases in any part of the world among the huge population of immunized people will almost certainly lead to the emergence of new forms that will affect all nations.

Special privileged people should not decide for themselves that a global epidemic is over. The way out of the way is the same as ever: making sure we get everyone to the finish line, not just a few. Humanity has done it with smallpox and could soon achieve it with polio and guinea-worm infections. The real obstacle to ending this COVID-19 crisis around the world is not science or resources – it is us.

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