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Tokyo Olympics: The dilemma of the ‘essential worker’

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The world has spent last 12 months developing a vaccine for the Wuhan virus. The dilemma now is to pick who gets these life-saving jabs first.

We may think that the answer to this question is simple and that the essential workers should get the priority. The elderly should follow next. And then the rest.

But who is an essential worker? For Japan the upcoming Olympics are essential. The Olympics has been shelved once. A repeat would mean losses worth billions

It is not surprising that Japan is planning to vaccinate Olympic athletes first. Athletes have become essential workers.

The not-so-essential Japanese began protesting online.

‘Why not the elderly first?’

One of the comments on social media in response to this news of athletes potentially being prioritised was- is it the Olympics over life now?

No, says the govt of Japan denying reports of priortisation of athletes. Say Japan does indeed vaccinate the elderly first. How would that be fair on someone who is 20 and fighting cancer?

In the CDC vaccine rollout recommendation, people above 16 and with co-morbidity only feature in the 3rd step of the inoculation programme.

While this template is for American states, something very similar is being followed the world over.

As a result, youngsters with life-threatening illnesses are being denied vaccines.

Is this fair?

‘Vacina ja’ is Portuguese for vaccine now. The national museum of Brazil is beaming the country’s demand. On the 6th of April, Brazil recorded 4,195 daily deaths. The worst on record.

But only health workers, people above 75, residents of old age homes and Brazil’s indigenous population are currently eligible for vaccination.

The new wave has shown this order of prioritisation does not work. When the virus does not discriminate, why should vaccines?

Be it on the basis of age, or profession. It is critical that health workers are safe It is also essential that our children return to school. Workers return to factories, and farmers to their farms.

Brazil’s protest against President Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic has touched a tipping point. Bolsonaro has asked the military if they have troops to quell possible unrest, is it only a matter of time before the frustration breaches borders? How long will the world silently wait for life-saving vaccines?

How long will people with threatening illnesses put up with this injustice? 

It’s not easy to decide who gets priority.

The answer becomes all the more difficult when you account for the fact that it may be weeks or even months before the next batch of vaccines reaches some of the countries.

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