Vaccine equity key to helping prevent COVID-19 variants like Omicron

Vaccines can help to prevent new COVID-19 variants, like the recently discovered Omicron, from emerging because they reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and transmission of the virus, according to Western University bioethics expert Maxwell Smith.

Some are suggesting the Omicron variant is a “wake-up call” to the world to improve vaccination in low- and middle-income countries, but Smith says historically humanity hasn’t answered.

Maxwell Smith

Maxwell Smith

“When similar ‘wake-up calls’ have emerged, like SARS, bird flu, H1N1, Ebola, and earlier strains of the COVID-19 virus, the world has not heeded these calls. Some decision makers argue that while new technologies like vaccines modified to target new variants may be necessary, they will not be sufficient,” says Smith, an assistant professor at Western’s Faculty of Health Sciences. “Preventing new variants and ending the pandemic will require technological innovation, like vaccines, but it’s ultimately dependent on meaningful ethical commitments to vaccine equity and solidarity.”

Smith, associate director of Western’s Health Ethics, Law, & Policy (HELP) Lab, is available to media for interviews.

A former member of Ontario’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, Smith also serves the World Health Organization on ethics and COVID-19 working groups.

Commentary reflects the perspective and scholarly interest of Western faculty members and is not an articulation of official university policy on issues being addressed.

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