Why and how will “vaccine nationalism” be the next serious hurdle for the international community in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic crisis?
Once the successful COVID-19 vaccines are made commercially available, the market will face a staggering global demand. The question – at least initially – is how to distribute the limited supplies. Can we treat the new vaccines just like any consumer products? Should we let market price dictate their distribution?
What if our goal is to maximize the number of the lives saved and to slow down the disease transmission? Our rational thought helps us envisage respectable ways of prioritizing among vaccine beneficiaries. For instance, the first shots should be given to the world’s health-care workers, then to those at a higher risk of severe diseases, then to those in areas suffering from rapid infection, and to the rest. In this case, Japan as a whole cannot be listed high in the priority order.
Japan thus is likely to acquire a large stock of successful vaccines (for immediate inoculation and hoarding), betraying the above-mentioned rational and humanitarian priority scheme. In fact, the governments of other developed countries – even if their citizens are relatively “low-risk” – have placed advance orders for huge amounts of doses of vaccines, likely leaving little for poorer parts with inadequate medical facilities of the world.
We are beginning to witness the period of contending vaccine nationalisms. The WHO has begun to call for resisting vaccine nationalism, particularly in wealthy countries. It is argued that the countries that keep vaccination treatments to themselves cannot expect to open their society to the world soon. (WC:243)
What has COVID-19 affected the maritime industry?
(based on 2020 UNCTAD Maritime Transport Report)
The issue of maritime debris in general, and plastics and microplastics in the oceans in particular, has given rise to some of the greatest environmental concerns. As a result, the international community has established Target 14.1 of Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to prevent and significantly reduce maritime pollution of all kinds. What is relevant to our discussion in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic is those land-based as well as onboard-ship activities that are linked to marine debris.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the fear of contamination in society, and a number of protective measures have been implemented to cope with its contaminating strength. As front-line institutions to confront the disease, many medical facilities have obliged their staff to be heavily armed with surgical gear and deploy various medical appliances and tools, many of which involve the use of plastic. More broadly, people have increased the use of liquid sanitizer for washing their hands and cleaning human-to-human contact points, such as doorknobs. Restaurants have relied more than before on take-away orders which are served with single-use, disposable plastic items, such as food containers and utensils.
There is a risk for these items to end up as litter in the environment, including in the sea and along beaches, which in many countries are a mainstay of the local tourism industry. Short-term solutions to address an increase in plastic pollution arising from the ongoing pandemic may include fines, placing labels indicating disposable items, and making information on littering and how to recycle more available to the public. Public attention on plastic pollution is likely to increase in due course, once the immediate COVID-19 threat subsides.
In the meantime, researchers suggest recycling single-use plastic items, limiting food deliveries and ordering from grocery supplies that offer more sustainable delivery packaging. In addition, wearing reusable face masks, disposing of single-use face masks correctly, and buying hand sanitizer contained in ecological sustainable packaging, should also be considered. But at this very moment, it seems that priority is on the protection from the pandemic rather than on the reduction of environment pollution, even though they are far from mutually exclusive. (WC: 360)