The Politics of COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine

Earlier this summer, when the coronavirus was finally being accepted as our new reality, and media politicians and prominent government figures were attempting to debunk the seriousness of the virus, an article by Sarah Zhang, entitled “A Vaccine Reality Check” was published in the Atlantic. Within this article, Zhang describes the then current climate of COVID-19 and the responses it was garnering from all sides. Most importantly, she dove into the ethical issues that these sides were battling with and gave her perspective on the matter.

Furthermore, Zhang begins by telling readers the reality-a COVID-19 vaccine will not be arriving soon, especially not in October, which was predicted. This destruction of false hope is essential in all crisis scenarios because although it may decrease one’s will, it is an opportunity to help someone realize the reality of a situation and prepare for it. The fact of the matter is that the world has never seen anything like COVID-19. In addition, since every science laboratory in the world is working on a vaccine, resources are already scarce, and the competition to monetize this vaccine is unprecedented.

However, regardless of these harsh realities, what matters most is that a vaccine is being developed around the world. Yet, one of the other issues highlighted by Chang is the prioritization of vaccination. Zhang recalls the protocol used back in 2009 when the H1N1 vaccine was being developed and was rolling out. It was essential that people received the vaccine in waves since they were not all in the same risk-of-contraction category. This is also true for the rolling out of the the COVID-19 vaccine since, as we’ve seen for months, the virus attacks people differently due to their age and health history.

Lastly, the political aspect of COVID-19 is discussed in every paragraph of this op-ed, and with every month since its release, it is clear that politics have played a major role in the reception of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. Although Zhang spoke on the terrible deceptions presented by President Trump, it is important to note what she said about the CDC being awfully quiet during these times. This was notable to be because in another class we learned about the CDC’s political affiliations and how those have influenced their decisions to talk about the virus and the cases associated with it. All in all, this virus is starting to expose the U.S, of not actually being 100% about the people, but more so about the people with much more power above and their financial interests. Essentially, these times have been a reminder that “cash rules everything around us” and propaganda is willing to be spewed in order to protect the flow of cash throughout the economy and so much more. This brings us back full-circle to the questions raised in Zhang’s article, who will get to control the COVID-19 vaccine? Will it be affordable and readily available? Why is such an important vaccine for the world being valued more for its monetary benefits compared to its health benefits for the globe? These are questions that make us question the intentions of those in power around the world.

2 thoughts on “The Politics of COVID-19 and the Race for a Vaccine

  1. Lee June Yun

    Mukarram analyzes and raises many important questions regarding the current COVID pandemic and the ethical issues that are surrounding this dilemma. In particular, it was interesting to see how he focuses on three topics, first being the question about who gets to monetize and control the flow of vaccines, and secondly, who gets to receive the vaccines first, and lastly,the issue of political debates and matters interfering and potentially hindering the treatment of COVID patients.
    Within all of these issues, one fundamental issue that should be questioned is whether ethical duties such as the duty of benevolence, or the idea of treating all people with care and give them the necessary treatment that they need, could override the economic and political forces that dominate the current society.
    For instance, for the issue of the distribution of the vaccines, the Kantian way of viewing the issue would be to distribute the vaccines in order of need, meaning that the most vulnerable and weak individuals would need to gain the vaccines first. However, this way of thinking contradicts the basic principles of economics, which states that the people who are most willing and able to get the goods (vaccines) should be able to consume the good. Although this may seem unfair, an ethical defense for this economic principle could be perhaps that the amount of wealth that people accumulated are results of these individual’s hard work, and like other goods that bring utility, such as good housing, quality food and leisure activities, vaccines should also be considered as a good that also brings utility and that distribution of utility should be based on the level of wealth.
    This same line of arguments could also extend to political and economic powers controlling and distributing information about COVID according to their will. However, we should consider whether COVID, which threatens the lives of many people, and the ability to prevent this could be considered merely as another good that provides utility, but rather as a fundamental right of humans that are as equally important as the right of speech and life.

  2. Justin Owen

    You raise a great point about the tie between politics and the response toward the pandemic and the race for the vaccine. The pandemic has been used as political power for both sides of each party, and it is detrimental to the citizens of the United States. The monetization of this vaccine and the patents that could arise from it could also negatively impact, especially on low-income families. Another problem that may occur once the vaccine is discovered and distributed is, are people actually going to take the vaccine? At this current political climate and the government’s response and lack of words from the CDC, people may not trust the vaccine as it may seem rushed to the public eye. Should people be obligated to take the vaccine? It may save countless lives, but we do not live in a country that can provide such force as China. The use of force in taking the vaccine is great from a utilitarianism standpoint, but it goes against the country’s individualism values.


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