With an increase in vaccination, life in Canada has felt as normal as it could since the first COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
While this is great news, much of the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, is still struggling with COVID-19. A true return to normal is impossible until enough people in these countries can be vaccinated. Canada helped in this regard by donating 17.7 million vaccines to low- and middle-income countries on July 12.
However, COVID-19 in these countries won’t end through vaccines alone. Using the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example, just under 0.1 per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated despite receiving 1.7 million doses. One underlying cause of these numbers has been an issue with distribution. The DRC, a country whose landmass is about twice the size of Ontario, has only 3,000 km of paved road: this infrastructure is a barrier to successful distribution of vaccines. Another concern is the high degree of vaccine hesitancy among Congolese: 70 per cent of healthcare workers said they would not take the vaccine. This is a product of inconsistent messaging about the virus and vaccines that is made worse by struggling health and education systems.
To address the issues highlighted above, Canada should invest directly into health care systems abroad rather than rely on donated vaccines alone. By creating resilient healthcare systems in countries like the DRC, citizens would receive adequate education about the virus and limit the spread of disinformation. This education would decrease vaccine hesitancy and make vaccine distribution run smoothly. In our interconnected world, ending COVID-19 everywhere is the only way to return to some semblance of normality.