Brand discrimination

Published June 10, 2021, 12:01 AM

by Senator Francis Tolentino

’TOL Views

Senator Francis N. Tolentino

About 400 universities and colleges in the United States have reportedly required foreign students mostly from India — who were already inoculated  — to re-vaccinate since the brands they had taken have yet to secure a “green light” from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and European Union (EU) issued a policy last month, which has barred travelers who have been inoculated with Chinese-made vaccines, even though some of those brands were already included in the WHO’s emergency use list (EUL).

Foreign travelers who have been vaccinated by any non-American or non-European brands are being required to abide by strict health protocols in the said Middle-Eastern nation, including a mandatory swab test upon arrival and a 10-day quarantine period.

Filipino seafarers who are working in European-flagged vessels are also reportedly prohibited to return to their respective jobs unless they are vaccinated with specific brands of vaccines which are mostly manufactured by western nations.

Although we cannot blame these nations to impose their preference on certain vaccine brands for foreign travelers before they can enter since they are just protecting their local population from a potential surge in COVID-19 infections, this creeping policy actually is tantamount to discrimination.

World leaders must consider that the global stock of COVID-19 vaccine remains limited due to a shortage of supply, considering that rich nations are being prioritized by vaccine-producing countries in their worldwide distribution.

Many countries like here in Southeast Asia preferred to purchase vaccines manufactured by western nations but the supplies they are getting are only a mere fraction of those being delivered in other wealthy states, prompting their respective governments to look for alternatives such as those manufactured by India, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China.

Every nation right now is currently in a so-called “race against time” in containing the pandemic and in achieving “herd population” since the coronavirus is evolving into a more contagious and deadlier disease considering the new strains discovered in India and Brazil — that is why vaccine preference should not be an issue now, and the best vaccine is the one available, citing Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Last month, Mr. Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, warned that it would amount to the so-called “vaccine apartheid,” if rich countries continue to hog COVID-19 shots while millions in poor countries died waiting for them.

According to UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima, “nine out of 10 people living in the poorest countries are set to miss out on a vaccine this year,” adding that “high prices block access and threaten to push more countries into an ever-deeper debt crisis.”

Poor countries cannot wait for these western-manufactured COVID shots while many of their respective countrymen have already died due to the global pandemic that is why they have resorted to securing vaccines from non-American or non-European nations.

Since the WHO recognized that every COVID-19 vaccine included in their EUL are “equally effective” against COVID-19, every nation in the world must at least not discriminate against any of these brands included in that list.