By Asitha Jayawardena
People over 50, the clinically vulnerable and some health staff will be jabbed under the booster programme starting from next week, announced UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the Downing Street briefing on the 14th of September 2021.
Six days ago, on the 8th of September, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO (World Health Organisation), called postponing Covid-19 booster jabs until 2022 in favour of the unvaccinated in the developing countries. Earlier, in August, he made a similar request from the developed countries to delay the booster jabs until the end of September. But, looking at the situation now, he said he did not see it materialize.
Meanwhile, on the 6th of September, over 200 editors of the health journals in all continents called on world leaders for emergency action on limiting the rises of global temperature to 1.5C, restoring biodiversity and protecting public health, publishing an editorial on their respective journals. The same editorial was shared for the first time, highlighting the effect of the climate change burden faced by humanity worldwide.
We can see that two developments came into play; one on Covid-19, the other on climate change. In both cases, one could see the financial difference between the developed world and the developing world.
Calling for a postponement of Covid-19 booster jabs in favour of the unvaccinated
On 9th September, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK approved the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines as the Covid-19 booster jabs despite the WHO Director-General’s call for a postponement until 2022. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) approved for people over 50, the clinically vulnerable and some health staff and the PM announced it in his Downing Street briefing on the 14th of September.
However, Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, a leading figure in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine programme, said that a mass vaccination programme is not necessary as most people who have been vaccinated with two doses have strong immunity. The elderly and the people with weakened immunity should have the third jab, she said.
She also said that the vaccines thus saved should be given to the developing world where the people eagerly expect the first jab of Covid-19. This is why the PM limited the “third” dose to 30 million in the UK.
Calling for the protection of health from climate change
Let’s consider the all-continent editorial by health journals next.
The editorial appeared in The BMJ, The Lancet, the New England Journal of Medicine, the East African Medical Journal, the Chinese Science Bulletin, the National Medical Journal of India, the Medical Journal of Australia, and 50 BMJ specialists journals including BMJ Global Health and Thorax.
The publication of the editorial comes before the biodiversity summit in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, the UK in November 2021.
Turning to development, the nations became developed countries when sustainability was not heard. Therefore, in the process of development, they emitted carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by burning what is called fossil fuels (i.e., coal, oil and natural gas). It was acceptable until the late 20th century.
The story of development is now different. The developing countries have to achieve not development but sustainable development. With the daily level of carbon dioxide going over 410ppm, the developing nations have their hands tied and burning fossil fuels – the method that developed nations achieve development those days – should be minimized.
The developing countries should generate energy from renewables, such as wind, solar and hydropower. Because they are still developing, the cost is high. Moreover, the subsidies given for fossil fuels by governments, particularly the developed nations, are strong.
Even today, the developed nations have a much larger impact on the climate crisis due to the burning of fossil fuels than the developing ones. For example, the carbon dioxide emissions of the US and India is 15.5 and 1.9 tons per capita, respectively. For many countries, such as in Africa and Asia, the carbon dioxide emissions are lower than 1 ton per capita.
As US President Biden says, the climate crisis is here and now. The developing countries are the least contributed to the climate crisis but will have the most in terms of impacts, such as flooding, droughts and storms. However, the developed nations have contributed to the crisis so that they have a major responsibility to solve it. So, the developed countries should help the developing ones to build a cleaner, healthier and more resilient societies.
The editorial, therefore, suggests that, as in the G7 summit in June 2021, the developed nations should go beyond US$100 billion a year, making up any shortfall in 2020, and increasing contributions to 2025 and beyond. This is an example of the developed nations giving grants to the developing countries for mitigation and adaptation of climate change.
Coronavirus and climate change…?
The Covid-19 is a global pandemic. The booster jabs are in question as the developed world has vaccinated a large population with two doses while the majority of the developing world waits for their first vaccine. The third dose to the developed nations is unnecessary as may have unvaccinated people in the developing world. As the Director-General of WHO believes, this pandemic is global.
Climate change is not a different story. When the developed world achieved development by burning fossil fuels and emitting loads of greenhouse gas emissions, no one worried about sustainability. Now when the developing world is burning fossil fuels and releasing GHG emissions, everyone is worried about sustainability.
The developing countries should resort to renewable energy sources. The developed world should pay for this transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
Whether we get it or not, we can see it at the COP26 in November 2021 in Glasgow. Just more than a month away.
UK plans COVID boosters for over 50s to cope with “bumpy” winter https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/uk-pm-johnson-set-out-covid-19-booster-strategy-under-winter-plan-2021-09-13/
‘We are united’: More than 200 health journals call for emergency action on climate change https://news.sky.com/story/we-are-united-more-than-200-health-journals-call-for-emergency-action-on-climate-change-12400336
Over 200 health journals call on world leaders to address “catastrophic harm to health” from climate change
WHO Calls For Pause On Covid Booster Shots Until 2022 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jemimamcevoy/2021/09/08/who-calls-for-pause-on-covid-booster-shots-until-2022/?sh=1b90db97f9a2
WHO calls for halting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in favor of unvaccinated https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/who-calls-moratorium-covid-19-vaccine-booster-doses-until-september-end-2021-08-04/