Author: Irina KHALTURINA
Had it been possible to imagine the rough development of a hypothetical pandemic and the response to it from the international community at least a year ago, when COVID-19 was still within the Chinese borders, the simulated situation would be radically different from what we have now... While this image may partially be a product of what we have long seen in Hollywood movies or Dan Brown’s books or apocalyptic YouTube documentaries, it is also based on logic, common sense and our knowledge of biology and anatomy taught in school...
Thus, the events would develop something like this. After temporary confusion due to overcrowded hospitals, collapsed economies and chaos in well-established spheres of life, including education, tourism and restaurant business, all the countries would decide to create a joint centre primarily to research the virus, find the most effective treatment methods and develop a vaccine; somewhere in Switzerland, inside a well-guarded building equipped with the state-of-the-art technology and prominent scientists. During the urgently convened UN General Assembly, politicians and public figures would urge to forget, at least temporarily, all geopolitical problems and make every effort to ensure that an adequate response to the virus is available, including for the poorest countries of the world. At the same time, there would be food aid programs, aid to farmers, the elderly, children, etc. The US would lead the salvation of mankind from the virus, as a result of which the American leader would gain incredible popularity both in his country and beyond.
But what do we see in reality? All countries, sometimes pursuing strange logic and inexplicable time frames, actually closed themselves off from each other. Political leaders cancelled many international events, speaking mainly through the Zoom conferences. Geopolitical degree of tension is simply off scale worldwide. There was not a single attempt to combine the efforts of scientists and doctors. On the contrary, rich countries have zealously embarked on independent vaccine production, turning this noble cause into competition. Not only has a more or less unified protocol for treating the disease not been developed, the world media outlets continue to publish an increasing number of its symptoms from mental disorders to diarrhoea and new, even more dangerous strains. At the very beginning of the pandemic, there were mainly two camps of people – those who believed in COVID-19 and those who denied it. In social networks, there are serious battles between those who believe in the protective power of vaccinations, and those who view the vaccination a way to exterminate the human kind. At the same time, we can see numerous reports on the success of mass vaccination in Western countries, and the problems with vaccination in the poorest countries of Africa, Latin America and Asia, as usual. On top of it, not only has the US not led the global rescue mission, but it became the most affected country of the world. America is divided by deep internal political problems after supporters of the outgoing president tried to storm the Capitol, with Washington turned into a walled city during the inauguration of the new president...
Geopolitics of vaccination
In mid-January, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Ghebreyesus said that the majority of the world's population has no prospects for vaccination. Thus, the population of the 49 richest countries of the world have already received more than 39 million doses of vaccine. Whilst only 25 vaccines were available in one of the poorest countries of the world. More than 95% of doses were distributed among the population of ten countries only, including the US, China, UK, Israel, the UAE, Italy, Russia, Germany, Spain and Canada. According to some experts, in 2021, 90% of people in the poorest countries will not receive any vaccine at all.
It just so happened that the issue of saving the human kind from the virus has become an issue of business. Despite the outbursts of humanism and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the principles of human coexistence have not changed much since the Middle Ages.
Business and geopolitics. These are the two pillars of modern society. Indeed, who would have guessed a year ago that vaccines would suddenly become a factor of geopolitics? Nevertheless, this is a reality. In addition to limited access to vaccines, the possibility of introducing the so-called Covid passport, which seems daunting to many, has further contributed to the current state of affairs. It is likely that certain countries will only allow entrance for those citizens who have received vaccines of manufacturers considered legitimate on that territory. This looks like a ready-made and, most importantly, a very effective tool for curbing mass migration.
Reports on the introduction of Covid passports (digital vaccine certificates or digital immunity passports) in different parts of the world appeared in January this year. Among such territories are New South Wales, Estonia, China, Israel, Chile, India, Russia, USA. It is clear that in addition to the fight for the sales market, which is worth about $100 billion, this factor boosts geopolitical confrontation for vaccines the most. For example, Ukraine does not want to buy the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, while the European vaccines (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, etc.) are not yet sold to Ukraine, because of the shortage problem. Does this mean that Ukrainians, who fought so hard for their European choice, may, at least for a certain time, not be admitted to the European Union? On the other hand, Hungary, which is a member of the EU, approved the Russian vaccine. Sputnik V was also purchased by Belarus, Argentina (President Alberto Fernandez was already vaccinated), Brazil, Bolivia, Serbia, while more than ten countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, have begun tests on Chinese vaccines. Western media are full of publications claiming that Russia and China use their vaccines as an excellent tool to show their soft power, or the so called vaccine diplomacy. In turn, the Chinese media ironically asks why the Western media are silent about the side effects of their own vaccines.
Certainly, such a record pace of development of vaccines also entails risks. There are already reports of the ‘side effects’ of vaccination, including casualties, in Norway, Germany, Israel, and the US. In addition, the Pfizer vaccine was registered by the European Medicines Agency under pressure from the head of the European Commission and the European Commissioner for Health. There also seems to be a difference between a laboratory vaccine and a commercial one. Therefore, it is not surprising that the earthlings are also divided to two camps: those who support vaccination and those who do not. It is rumoured that vaccines from Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna developed on the RNA matrix (mRNA) can lead to poorly understood, if not yet known consequences.
According to a poll conducted by the British international research firm YouGov only 47% of Americans expressed a desire to be vaccinated. The idea of compulsory vaccination enjoys the least support in France (19%), Poland (21%) and the US (29%). The most trusted vaccine among the respondents is the German one, followed by vaccines developed in Canada, UK, Australia, France, US, Singapore, South Korea, Russia, India, China and Iran. It is remarkable that the number of ordinary people, as well as various experts, political scientists, bloggers and influencers, who believe that the vaccination is a way to reduce or chipping the world population, is growing daily... No one can clearly explain what the first and second mean and how they can happen, but since the politicians and world leaders have never commented on these issues, the popularity of this theory continues to gain momentum.
The torn World Wide Web
Apparently, it is the ongoing political events in the US, which boost wide range online discussions claiming that Biden's supporters are trying to transform the world population into a “digital concentration camp” under the rule of transnational corporations... Sounds crazy? Probably. But millions of people are already thinking about and discussing this issue... For example, recently, we have dropped a comment under a Facebook post from a highly respected American publication arguing the legitimacy of correlation between firing somebody and the COVID-19 vaccination. Our comment was immediately followed by a flurry of likes, as well as dislikes with mocking comments hinting at our alleged sympathies for Trump... I had to make it clear that I had nothing to do with America, nor with the 45th President of the US. And immediately the interest to my comment was ‘turned off’. This is just a small fragment of barricades that currently divide the hearts and minds of the world population and also the users of social networks.
On January 8, Donald Trump's accounts on Twitter (88 million subscribers), Facebook (35 million) and Instagram were blocked due to ‘the risk of new calls for violence’. One can argue endlessly about whether there were calls to or facts of violence. By the way, are the decisions of the tech giants on the then president of the most powerful country in the world a violation of human rights? This is exactly what was mentioned above. But one thing became clear in January this year – the Internet has definitely ceased to be a neutral platform for the free exchange of opinions and a phenomenon that unites people. Humanity, driven by COVID-19, has entered the third decade of the 21st century along a widening gap in the World Wide Web...