One of the hardest-hit sectors in society is those who are living below the poverty line. The poor are affected by the multiple factors arising from the fallout from COVID-19. Many of the members of the poor who are continuing to strive to lift themselves out of poverty are pushed down by the pandemic and their governments’ pandemic response. Factors such as unemployment, hunger, healthcare, and homelessness became pivotal issues for the poor, especially during a crisis. The pandemic tested society’s response to the poor’s cries for help. Sadly, the response was lackluster at best.
Now that the vaccinations have started, the poor find themselves at the bottom of the priority list. They are the most vulnerable and most exposed group, yet they are not even at the top half of the priority list. While the rich as the privilege of choosing the vaccine they want, the persons with the least access to healthcare are the ones who will suffer further. Why is this the case? Are vaccines and poverty related?
Year in and year out, poverty is always the issue least addressed by those in positions of power. We get so exposed to so many images of poverty that we see them every day, personally or through media. One must wonder, are we already desensitized to having some empathy for those in need?
An article in the Independent in the United Kingdom stated once in its headlines that people have become so desensitized to a basic right not to go to bed hungry. Food is a demandable right against the state, yet repeated incompetencies by the government have overexposed the people to Poverty Porn.
Poverty has become so romanticized across many nations around the globe. The tales involving those who have risen from the ashes of poverty are often treated like tales of heroes. It is rarely mentioned how luck and extreme hardships go with these types of stories. Rising from poverty has become the ideal and not the exception. Charities are often led with pity and not kindness.
The vaccines generated by pharmaceutical companies are meant to be shared with everyone. When Frederick Banting discovered insulin with his meek pharmaceutical lab equipment, he gave the patent away. He stated that it would be too cruel to keep such a discovery for profit. Vaccines have a similar plight with the story of insulin. While most inventors and manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines would like to give the vaccine away for free or at cost, most governments are not lobbying for the poor to get preferential treatment, even if they are the most vulnerable sector among others.
The kindness of vaccine manufacturers is neutralized by the oppressive governments some nations have. In a study done by The World Bank and the World Health Organization, health systems must be supported by the government as it directly impacts the wealth of their peoples. It is their perspective that no one should spend out-of-pocket when it comes to healthcare expenses.
Yet governments take no notice regarding this call. Despite multiple calls that the poor and vulnerable should be prioritized, the mitigating effect of the vaccine is not taken note of. Due to selfish notions, thousands of leaders/vaccine jumpers are skipping the line. Sadly, no reason other than systemic greed and oppression can explain why the poor are not prioritized.
It is high time that people realize that the people who need the most help pre-pandemic are the ones who need the most help now. The poor are always caught in the middle when it comes to oppressive systems and patchwork solutions.
Transparency is always key when it comes to implementing social change. Those in power should always be transparent and explain why a certain set of people is getting the vaccine over another subset of people. The poor at the bottom of the food chain. They are the producers and manufacturers of common food necessities, yet they are the last ones taken care of by governments. With inoculation, they are taken further above the poverty line.
Coordinated and multi-faceted responses are necessary to support the people that need them most. It is not yet too late for these sectors, as actions can still be taken to address issues. If the response is made timely and large-scale, there is a chance that both the pandemic and poverty will be solved in one fell swoop. By working together, we can have a go at solving the ever-growing problem of poverty.