By Angela Tsai, Dalhousie Medical student
2021 Global Health Student Blog Writing Competition
Winner: Best Literary Style
As I walked out of the immunization centre on a bright sunny day in February, I could not wait to display my digital vaccination record on Instagram to show off my new jab. Not surprisingly, my inbox was full of inquiries from envious friends and classmates within minutes of making the post. That was when I saw the message from one of my childhood friends, who works as a nurse in Taiwan. She told me that the whole country did not have one single COVID vaccine, and that several of her colleagues had succumbed to the disease during the first and second waves. That was when my smug smile turned into a grim, and I started to feel guilty for my good fortune of being a healthcare worker in Canada.
So why did I receive the COVID vaccine before my friend did? As an occasional swabber at local COVID testing sites, my risk of contracting the disease is significantly lower than a nurse who works in the ICU treating infected patients. I could not stop thinking about the hundreds of thousands of doses that Canada brings in each month. What measures did our government take to obtain these precious vials? Who are we taking the vaccines from? Why are we not distributing the vaccines based on morbidity and mortality and instead on wealth and political power of a nation?
Thinking back to my medical school training, we were taught and tested on health equality and advocacy. But in reality, we see ourselves selfishly acquiring and hoarding resources during shortages and neglecting others’ wellbeing. Our neighborly gestures and polite demeanors suddenly disappear when the world needs us the most, and we assert our dominance over the less fortunate with our affluence and international leverage. While I am not here to judge the morality of our actions, it is disheartening to learn that our greed has trumped our conscience in upholding the principles of global health that we care so deeply about.
In a perfect world, there would be equality for all. It does not matter where you are born, what you own, or who you know. We are all human beings, and we deserve to enjoy good health regardless of nationality, politics, location, class, gender, race, and social economic status. Global health should transcend national borders. As a whole, we should share our knowledge and resources to improve health practices and infrastructures. It is time that we see ourselves as global citizens instead of distinct individuals concealed in perfectly round bubbles. In the end, national borders are artificial lines drawn on a blank map, but health equality does not need to stop there.
Additional Canadian resources on vaccinations: