I overheard someone refer to the effects of this pandemic as – “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat.” I felt that.
At the time I write this, it is June of 2021. Almost 18 months have passed since the world’s countries closed their borders to one another in a desperate effort to contain the virus. Some countries still obey strict border closures, including Australia where I am at the present time. Others have relaxed their laws in an attempt to resuscitate shattered economies and return to a sense of normality.
However, the saying still rings true – “We are in the same storm, but not in the same boat;” and the pandemic is far from over.
In this blog, I talk about vaccine equity and the ethics of travel in 2021. This is an opinion based piece pulling in facts from reputable sources.
What is vaccine equity and how can we achieve it?
Vaccine rollouts have been slow and continue to highlight the divide between the ‘haves and have-nots.’ According to Vox, as of January 2021 countries representing 16% of the global population held almost half the doses from the most promising vaccine developers. To put it bluntly, rich countries hold a significant advantage when it comes to the global vaccine rollout.
Global health organisations, including the World Health Organisation, came together to find a solution to promote vaccine equity – the fair and equitable rollout of vaccines worldwide. The solution, Covax – a multi-lateral initiative funded by wealthy governments and charities that allows a fair distribution of vaccine doses to disadvantaged and lower-income countries.
At present, the goal of the Covax initiative is to deliver 2 billion doses to 92 low-income countries by the end of 2021. However, more global support is needed to meet this target.
Why is vaccine equity important?
Vaccine inequality only perpetuates global inequality. The pandemic isn’t really over for anyone until it’s over for everyone. If half the world has access to vaccines and half don’t, how can we embrace freedom of movement when people are systematically put at risk?
Without intervention, some countries may not become fully vaccinated until 2023.
What does this mean for travel?
From an economic perspective, countries are keen to open their borders, especially those countries that are highly reliant upon tourism. However, the decision to open borders still sits with governments on a case-by-case basis.
In May 2021, Europe opened their borders to EU citizens and non-EU citizens for non-essential travel, with an ‘Emergency break’ clause to close borders if COVID-19 cases start to rise. Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, are implementing strict border closures for at least the whole of 2021.
There is always a risk in opening borders when only a small percentage of the world is vaccinated. However, many countries have economic recovery at the forefront of their strategy and travel plays a large role in achieving growth.
“The tourism industry… must speak up about vaccine equity louder than it has and take on a bigger role in tackling the issue if the industry is to return to any sense of normality. Without vaccine equity, there is no travel recovery.”https://skift.com/2021/05/04/why-tourism-needs-to-step-up-and-push-for-vaccine-equity/
The ethics of travel in 2021
The discussion around whether we should or should not travel during the pandemic is a complex one that involves topics around inequality and colonialism.
As a traveller, I do want to contribute to the growth of countries and communities that lost so much in the pandemic however, I would never want to put lives at risk in order to serve my own desires.
Marginalised populations have seen this scenario before. Island nations like Hawaii and Tahiti were plagued with diseases during historical colonisation when white people brought illnesses to their lands. Has much changed since then? We now have an opportunity to consider the type of impact we are making on the places we visit and put the local populations’ health and safety at the forefront of our decisions.
I believe that an empathetic approach is required when making the decision to travel again. We have an obligation as humans, as humane people, to ensure everyone makes it out of this storm no matter the size of their boat.
What can you do?
- Get vaccinated before you consider travelling outside of your country
- If vaccination is not an option, consider travelling locally or to low-risk countries
- Support and promote vaccine equity
- Support tourism initiatives helping those in need
- Travel virtually
What are your thoughts on the ethics of travel in 2021? [Click to Tweet]
Related resource –
Listen to my interview with JoAnna Haugen from Rooted – a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, storytelling, and social impact.