Vaccine tourism exposes moral outrage of America’s hoarding

(People's Daily Online) 17:40, June 08, 2021

“We have arrived in the US not for the American dream, we are here for the vaccine dream,” said a citizen who had travelled from Peru to get inoculated against COVID-19, according to a CNN report.

Peru now has the world’s highest rate of COVID deaths per capita at 551 per 100,000 people, but has not been able to obtain enough vaccines. Many Peruvians had to travel to foreign countries to get their injection, while the US, which has hoarded large quantities of COVID-19 vaccines, has become a popular “tourist destination” for them.

Photo taken on June 1, 2021 shows a vial of the Sinopharm vaccine in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua)

An estimated 70,000 Peruvians have already traveled abroad to get vaccinated, according to an official from Peru. With the number of people traveling from Peru to the US quadrupling in recent months, flight costs have also gone up several times.

But not everyone can pay for vaccine tourism in the US. According to an article published by New York Times, most of the vaccine tourists to the US are wealthy and middle-class Latin Americans with American tourist visas, while poor Latin Americans can’t afford the high cost of travel.

Statistics from the Pan American Health Organization show that although over 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered across the Americas, most of those have been in the US. Indeed, just 3 percent of Latin Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is evident that vaccine tourism was born out of the inequitable distribution of vaccines, which does more harm than good to the control of the pandemic and exacerbates the social divide. While many countries are denied access to COVID-19 vaccines, the US is hoarding them, adding fuel to the fire.

The US has snapped up some 2.6 billion doses of vaccines, a quarter of the global total, far more than it needs, and left hundreds of millions of unused vaccine doses piled up in warehouses, according to reports by Western media.

“We are right now in possession of a supply that could be shared, that we’re worried about expiring,” Arkansas governor told the White House in a phone call.

Stephen Morrison, director of the Global Health Policy Center at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the US is going to have an embarrassing accumulation of vaccine surplus.

By the end of the year, it is estimated that the US vaccine surplus will surpass 1 billion doses, according to a study by the Brookings Institution.

“Given how sensitive the issue of equitable vaccine distribution has become, it is almost certain that the foreign and international economic policy goals of the Biden Administration will be compromised if this matter is handled poorly,” the study said.

It's unimaginable that nearly a dozen countries are “vaccine deserts” where nobody, not even doctors treating COVID-19 patients, has gotten a single shot.

America’s vaccine surplus is staggering, American news website Vox said, adding that it’s a moral outrage that they are not being shared faster with a virus-ravaged world.

In stark contrast, China has taken completely different actions. Despite its own huge population and tight vaccine supply, China has provided more than 350 million doses to the international community, including vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and exports to over 40 countries. In addition, China has also carried out production cooperation with a number of developing countries to promote large-scale and rapid production of vaccines.

The imbalance in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines was a catastrophic moral failure , said the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

On several occasions, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has criticized some developed countries for pursuing “vaccine nationalism”, hoarding vaccines, or cutting deals in private with vaccine suppliers. He said the inequitable distribution is immoral and called for equitable distribution of vaccines globally.

However, the US keeps stressing that the country should stick to the approach of “America First” or domestic priority on vaccine distribution, and restricts the export of raw materials of vaccines.

American politicians have always failed to match their words with their deeds. It’s a moral outrage that the American dream has been turned into the vaccine dream in the face of the pandemic.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)