Vaccine nationals

Having seen only anti paired with it forever, my first reaction to seeing vaccine preceding national was relief. Something that was foreseen by a few shrewd observers in summer 2020 has become a major topic of discussion six months since. Should vaccines be made available for everyone equitably? The answer to this question is so innocuously obvious that we must distrust the question itself. Of course vaccine equity is desirable. But the conclusions that follow from it are far from innocuous. A lot of people seem to be claiming that since we all agree on vaccine equity, rich nations must scale back efforts to procure doses for their own citizens. Some of these are rightly targeting countries buying up stock many times over what they need. Others seem to imply that rich nations shouldn’t vaccinate at a higher rate or level than poorer ones.

That sounds problematic. At a fundamental level, that indicates a misguided view of what nation is, especially a democratic one. It is a manifestation of the collective will of a group of people, and what will is stronger than the will to survive? Why would a plumber in Texas give up a dose of the vaccine slated for his mother so that a farmer in Punjab can have his mother vaccinated? Appeals to richer nations on holding back also indicate a belief in benevolent paternalism, which is painfully reminiscent of how many, including Tagore, viewed the British in colonial times. Arguments based on efficiency, which are usually suspect but here seem relevant, would also dictate that we get the doses to as many people as soon as possible, which would mean allocating to the most efficient distribution systems first.

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