Clearly, there are individual risks for those who are willing to be exposed to contact with COVID-19. It’s worth reiterating here that the virus doesn’t just affect older people and those with underlying conditions.
And if young, good healthy individuals are less likely to die, there is a possibility that many will develop the long-term diseases, such as chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, stomach issues, lack of smell or taste. These individuals are now described as ‘long COVID.’
An even bigger issue is that vast amounts of time and money were poured into vaccine development to rapidly control the pandemic and restore normal activity, and for this, mass vaccination is crucial.
Trying to roll out the vaccines across the world simultaneously is a fair and equitable thing to do, but it is also necessary to stop the transmission of the virus. It’s unclear at the moment whether the vaccine will stop someone from transmitting the virus as well as preventing disease, but in any case, reducing the number of people infected will prevent the virus from spreading further and will save the lives of people who are most vulnerable. If vaccination is staggered more than necessary, there will potentially never be a high enough proportion of people vaccinated to stop constantly passing the virus around.
A delay in vaccination and building population immunity also gives the virus time to mutate, and if there are populations with partial immunity (when only a small proportion of people are vaccinated) facing a highly transmissible virus, the virus could evolve to be resistant to current vaccines.
Since it’s not yet clear how long immunity after COVID-19 infection or vaccination will actually last, it’s crucial to stop the virus from circulating as soon as possible in case immunity starts to wane. If this happens, it will create a window of opportunity for the virus to resurge. This is why speed is just as important as equity in vaccination against COVID-19.