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Am I in some way responsible for global vaccine inequality?

Two things are clear. First, younger people like me are significantly less at risk of severe COVID than older people. This is not to say that we are safe, only that we are safer. Second, the global vaccine rollout, thanks to the influence of richer countries, is woefully unequal. As the UK reaches the end of its initial rollout and begins administering third doses, poorer countries are yet to fully vaccinate even their most vulnerable. There continues to be huge numbers of people across the world in desperate need of essential protection against this deadly pandemic. Meanwhile, the UK vaccinates people like me who were largely safe already. We accept that this is a moral failure on the behalf of the UK government, but what is more difficult to accept is the idea that we may be part of the problem.

A friend recently pointed out to me that I may be personally responsible for the fact that vaccine doses, which could have been better used on people who are more at risk, were given to me. Initially, this is an accusation that is difficult to deny. Certainly, I accepted my doses as soon as they became available, with no consideration for the fact that they could have been used on others who needed them more. I got vaccinated to protect myself, to help protect loved ones, and to finally acquire that elusive Covid-19 Pass. Somewhat ironically, I got vaccinated so that I could more easily visit countries where the vaccine rollout has been less successful, forgetting that the same doses could play some small part in solving their problem. When put like this, it certainly seems like a selfish decision.

No individual action or inaction can change this situation, only a change in policy

But of course, the choice I made wasn’t really that simple. Last month there were reports that a drop in young people seeking out first doses led to multiple batches of vaccines being thrown away. They were not donated to those more in need, they were thrown away. This is the true reality of the decision I made. I was not choosing between getting vaccinated or allowing someone more in need of being vaccinated. I was choosing between accepting a vaccine dose or causing that same vaccine dose to be wasted. Morally, this is easy. My low risk of severe Covid-19 essentially became zero soon after my second injection. Whilst the same dose may have benefitted another more, the benefits for me are still substantial. If the alternative is the same dose benefitting no one, then of course I should take it as soon as possible.

The main conclusion to be drawn from this question should be the fact that rich governments across the world have made a choice that is beyond morally dubious. They have willingly chosen to withhold essential doses from vulnerable people in poorer countries, and they have done so knowingly. This will result in unnecessary illness and death. Furthermore, this is a situation in which the blame lies solely on the governments who have made this choice. No individual action or inaction can change this situation, only a change in policy.

So no, I am not personally responsible for the state of the global vaccine rollout. I think that everyone in the UK should get vaccinated as soon as possible, or else life-saving vaccines will simply go to waste. But we must accept that it was wrong that I had the option to be vaccinated so early when others needed it more. Rich countries, including the UK, have made one of the most appalling decisions of modern times, and it is high time they reconsidered.

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