Letters & Opinion

Missing-out by Majoring in Minor Matters

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

In all the noise about the Pandora Papers exposing the riches of the world’s richest politicians, Facebook’s seven-hour disconnection blues one day after a whistleblower blew-off for 60 Minutes, the continuing volcano eruptions in La Palma and speculative drama over whether Caribbean governments should follow the rest of the world and require vaccinations in the Public Service, one significant global milestone was achieved this week that never made the news here like it should.

It’s the approval by the World health Organization (WHO) of a vaccine for Malaria, which affects millions worldwide and takes as many as half-a-million (500,000) lives annually in Africa alone.

Kenya was among the nations ahead in the research across the continent that has continued for decades without end, until WHO Director General happily announced on Thursday that ‘tens of thousands’ of children’s lives will be saved each year as a result.

This is as huge a development as the fast-tracking of research and approval into the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna COVID vaccines.

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Indeed, if the number of children who’ve died from Malaria globally to date is to be added-up, it could clearly outnumber the nearly five million people who’ve died from COVID-19 to date.

I read an online post this week that indicated that 340,584 Malaria deaths had already been recorded for 2021, which, if taken as an annual average, would also quickly add-up to too many avoidable deaths.

The debate will continue over the speed that attended development of COVID-19 vaccines vis-a-vis the search for a cure for Malaria (or HIV), even over the fact that both vaccines (for COVID and Malaria) were developed by multinational pharmaceutical corporations (BIG Pharma) in the world’s richest nations.

It’s not widely known that one of the conditions for British funding of the research and production of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was that it be a Not-For-Profit drug, leading to its adoption as the preferred vaccine for the United Nations COVAX distribution mechanism to vaccinate the world, but especially 92 small, developing and poor nations (including Saint Lucia) unable to afford.

Nor is it widely known that only ten rich countries have gobbled-up 75% of all the vaccines produced, their populations vaccinated 61 times more than poor countries while 56% of the world’s population are still awaiting their first dose.

G-7 have nations promised one billion free vaccines from their reserve stockpiles, but only delivered 15% to date, while even with 1.5 billion vaccines produced monthly there’s nothing in sight to show the 11 billion needed to inoculate the world will be made available anytime soon, except when orders and payments are confirmed.

That the Malaria vaccine was manufactured by GSK (Gladstone-Smith-Kline) might have an influence over its eventual cost, which will add to the COVID costs in dollars and lives already being spent and paid across Africa.

Traditional treatment of Malaria in some Caribbean countries have involved ingestion of Mercury by those who believe it to provide permanent internal body protection against all non-natural ills, but in most cases at the cost of such believers in the absolute wonders of this prescription also believing they should not trust or ingest any ‘chemical’ medicines produced by commercial manufacturers.

But the possibility also exists that just like with the COVID and HIV vaccines, GSK might also be accused of collaborating with African governments to develop and market another vaccine that’ll also be costly and – and made compulsory or mandatory, or simply be required.

Thing is, there were no such conspiracy theories when many of the conscientious objectors were vaccinated before being accepted in nursery school – and still don’t ask what’s in the injections they take at health centers or Accident & Emergency departments.

Or in the endless tablets most may take regularly for health and nutrition purposes, made by the same companies they accuse of planning to poison the world.

Interestingly, as Barbados PM Mia Mottley recently pointed out, among those opposing Pfizer vaccines are men who trust Viagra – also made by Pfizer.

The discovery of a vaccine to cure Malaria is a major achievement, but as with the COVID-19 vaccines, GSK can also be expected to hold-on to the copyright and monopolize production and distribution – except if the countries involved in trials had thought and moved early enough to invest in sharing the related science and technology.

But at any rate, it’s one of those major achievements that get minor attention, particularly from reporters who major in minor matters and media houses that see no major benefit in promoting what the mainstream and social media may consider of minor value.

C’est la vie, even in these COVID times when life is supposed to be worth more than just living…

But that doesn’t in any way lessen its total import.

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