Rich countries are selfish when it comes to vaccine safety

A recent article from Newsweek discusses some of the long-term benefits of vaccines.

But it’s a section on the rich nation-poor nation dichotomy towards vaccine safety that’s most fascinating. The authors observe that better educated nations are those with the most vigorous opposition to vaccines. The United States, for instance, has many who simply refuse to be given the H1N1 vaccine – a benefit that’s not available to many parts of the world. It’s a stark, sad, situation:

In the wealthy world, where individuals have the luxury of demanding 100 percent safety, the balance between individual and population rights has shifted so far toward individualism that it is nearly impossible for public-health authorities to persuade people to accept even one in 1 billion risks on behalf of society as a whole . . . But the very tools of protection that many individuals in the rich world are rejecting—especially the H1N1 vaccine—are completely unavailable to more than half the population of the world. Some 24 million children last year had no access to basic vaccines, says UNICEF, and at least 4 billion people cannot get flu vaccines right now.

Calling this attitude “arrogant hypocrisy,” it’s further observed that, “rich countries demand that the planet’s poor make sacrifices to slow down epidemics—such as slaying their chickens to stop bird flu, or losing tourist dollars by publicly acknowledging outbreaks within their borders—but offer little in return, including access to precious vaccines.”

Poignant stuff. Now go and read this excellent article in its entirety.

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