Governor Charlie Baker announcement last week that all adults vaccinated in Massachusetts were eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster. Pfizer and Moderna’s recalls were previously limited to people at high risk of contracting COVID, including anyone over 65.
This is great news. As students living and learning nearby, the ability to receive booster shots increases protection against COVID among a massively vaccinated community.
But there is a problem. Only 53 percent of the world’s population has has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, not to mention a second or third dose as a booster. About 70 percent of the population of high- and upper-middle-income countries are vaccinatedcompared to five percent of low-income countries. Risking the development of COVID variants among the unvaccinated is a public health threat that will prolong the pandemic for nearly two years. Booster shots shouldn’t be a priority until COVID vaccines are distributed more equitably.
“When rare vaccines are used as boosters, rather than the first vaccines for the unvaccinated, it allows the virus replicate and mutate, potentially creating worrisome variants that undermine vaccine protection, âsaid Nancy Jecker, professor of bioethics at the University of Washington.
In August, the director of the World Health Organization called for a two-month moratorium on booster injections, ideally until 10 percent of people in each country are vaccinated. This is a goal that was missed almost four months later.
“We should not accept countries that have already used up most of the global vaccine supply, using even more,” he said. âWhile the world’s most vulnerable people are still not protected. “
Critics argue that rich countries are the rightful owners of purchased vaccine doses, free to distribute them in the best interests of the nation, but that’s the wrong perspective to take when global health is at stake. intellectual property should be waived for COVID vaccines, putting health before profit.
âFor-profit companies have the stranglehold on patents, freezing their profits while simultaneously accepting government grants to offset research and development costsâ¦ In the pursuit of their own interests, governments have simply paid for their own place. at the front of the vaccine line. . This has led to unequal access between rich and poor nations.
Vaccine inequality is a significant global problem, but that doesn’t mean you should be hesitant to sign up for a booster. Third doses are now available in Massachusetts and not receiving them will not solve any of the problems mentioned above. You are obligated to protect your loved ones given the resources available, and now that means getting a reminder.
The stake is comparable to the fight against climate change. Of course, you can use paper straws and energy efficient light bulbs, but substantial changes will only happen if businesses reduce their fossil fuel emissions. People can and should reduce their consumption to protect the environment, but they are not ultimately responsible for enacting structural changes.
The same is true for the COVID vaccine. People with access to a booster are responsible for protecting themselves and their community, not redistributing medical care around the world. You can get vaccinated and recognize the system in which you can do it, a system that prioritizes Western money and medicine over equality.
Living in a country with access to widely available and free COVID vaccines is a privilege, so take advantage of it.
Vaccinated people can calendar an appointment for a booster injection through the University of Massachusetts Vaccine Clinic.
Catherine Hurley can be reached at [emailÂ protected] and follow on Twitter @cath_hurley.