With the Covid-19 pandemic taking center stage, nations have begun competing against each other to vaccinate their population. It has become all the more important now, more than ever to discuss Medical Apartheid.
Apartheid is an Afrikaans word that plainly translates to ‘apartness’ or ‘separateness’. It is a racial segregation policy that affected millions of black Africans from securing basic social, economic, and political rights, the medical field being no exception to this.
Forced Human Experimente
Medical apartheid is the racial discrimination of the human race in the health care sector. Historically, Blacks were forced to take part in medical experiments and denied treatment to study the progression of a disease. To say the least, their bodies were exploited.
A classic example to emphasize the disparate treatment received based on race is the Tuskegee syphilis experiment conducted in 1932. About 600 African Americans infected with syphilis, a venereal disease, were initiated into research that promised to provide free medical care. But in hindsight, it aimed to study the progression of the disease. The participants were given placebo pills and were provided with nothing that would treat the disease. This led to severe health complications including blindness, mental issues, and in some cases even death.
Unfortunately, this was not the end. Racial bias dominated gynecology even after that, with black women branded as ‘breeders’. They were often subjected to horrendous procedures without anesthesia because scientists and doctors believed that black people were less ‘sensitive’ to pain than white people. These notions harbored painful experiments and surgeries to be performed on black people through the years.
Medical Apartheid Finds a Place in Present Times
You may ask why any of this is relevant now and especially to the pandemic we are facing. We’ve got not one but five vaccines to provide immunity against the coronavirus and yet developing nations like Africa experience a shortage. The developed rich nations are buying doses of the vaccines that would be enough to vaccinate more than their country’s population. This is the same way the rich nations reacted during HIV/AIDS and Ebola. History has begun to start repeating itself with limited access to affordable and safe vaccines just like it happened in the 1990s during the AIDS pandemic.
We are witnessing a system of vaccine apartheid brought on by pharmaceutical and drug companies who have given more importance to keeping their intellectual property rights intact even when there is an emergency in global health care.
Apart from drug manufacturers, governments also have stooped low by following the vaccine apartheid system. Israel is the first country to have been praised globally for administering vaccines to more than 28% of its population. But, Israel has failed to put its racial bias aside and provide vaccines to the Palestinians. The fourth Geneva Convention states that the occupying power (Israel) has the duty of ensuring that preventive measures are put in place to contain the spread of contagious diseases. However, the unbridled racism of Israel violates this International law.
The world is in distress and we must vaccinate and provide affordable health to every human being without bias.
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