Can’t wait to travel outside of North America. Re-book your vacation to New Zealand or Australia. Check off your bucket list those trips you’ve been dreaming about–a cruise on the Yangtze River in China or reaching the heights of Machu Picchu in Peru. Or maybe your dream is a safari or big game shoot in Africa.
These trips, however, won’t happen safely until a lot more people in the world get their COVID jabs.
Families and communities in low-income countries have received less than one per cent of all vaccines administered to date. Yet these are the countries that endanger not only our return to safe international travel, but they are the countries that will unintentionally, and with disastrous human cost, keep breeding variants of concern until they can reach some level of herd immunity.
I’m not a scientist, but I do readily accept the professional explanation for how viruses mutate. They are a hardy bunch and until herd immunity is reached worldwide, we’ll be living in a yo-yo world of health scares, public health restrictions, overworked health care workers and economic fallout.
We need only turn on the news and hear about Tokyo, Britain, Israel, California, Missouri, Taiwan, Australia, Belgium to understand this virus is tougher than any political spin. What we so desperately want—no masks, no restrictions on in-door crowds and no COVID concerns—might be fleeting at best.
Viruses happily mutate into stronger and more transmissive varieties in areas where vaccinations are few, social distancing is difficult and proper hygiene is challenging. These stronger viruses then get on airplanes and ships with unsuspecting traffickers (those without symptoms, including some fully vaccinated) and, viola, they arrive in first world countries to re-ignite yet another COVID wave.
The key to the whole COVID problem is to get ahead of new and more infectious variants of the virus. If we don’t, our current vaccines will become less effective or ineffective over time.
In order to stop the mutation of COVID-19, wealthier countries must get vaccines into the arms of all eligible peoples of the world. To not do so, will only breathe oxygen into future variants of concern.
Remember the logistics that provinces went through to get distribution systems in place to effectively jab as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. No small task for a rich country. Then envision how much more difficult this process is in poorer, more densely populated countries of the world.
And here’s where Canadians can personally help. The Canadian government and UNICEF, a global leader in vaccine distribution to high-risk groups in lower-income countries, have signed a donation matching agreement. Every dollar we donate to UNICEF, the government will match. Twenty people for every $100 donation will get vacinated which means your $100 will enable 40 people to receive COVID protection.
Governments are contributing doses and dollars to COVAX to help the world get vaccinated. But now we as individuals can do our bit.
UNICEF is a star performer. It vaccinates more children for common diseases than any other organization and, as such, has more trained personnel and distribution systems in poorer nations than any other non-government organization (NGO).
Today, those of us who desperately want life to return to normal can help ourselves by helping others. Go to www.unicef.ca/GiveAVax to donate any amount or text VACCINES to 45678 to donate $10. It’s a great feeling to do our small part to curtail a virus that has no intention of being defeated as long as large swaths of the world remain unvaccinated.