The Express Tribune Editorial 15 February 2021

Scramble for vaccines


After a year of uncertainty and gloom, there is some bit of good news — in theory. There are now multiple vaccines to tackle the novel coronavirus in the international market. Their results, from what we know for now, are promising if not perfect. For the first time in what has seemed like eons, there now seems to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Now on to the bad news. That light, naturally, has started to prompt a mad rush towards the end of the tunnel. The pandemic has been cruel to all governments around the world and more than people’s welfare, it has seemingly turned into a matter of political survival for many. In their desperation to kick-start a return to normalcy, there now looms the threat of a free-for-all. And that is where mistakes are bound to happen.
Although the Pakistan government has initiated its own Covid-19 inoculation drive, starting with frontline health workers, it has yet to procure any vaccine in substantive volumes. In the meantime, some in the Pakistani elite, as they are wont to do, have shown they are willing to resort to their ‘time-tested’ tactic: throw money at a problem until it fixes itself.
It is in the light of these developments that the government’s decision to allow the private sector to import vaccines without any worry of price caps seems both understandable and ill-advised. The hope, it seems, is that the private sector will both augment national vaccine stock and divert those desperate to ‘cut the line’ towards a commercial solution. But we all know the warning about best laid plans.
It is equally, if not more likely that the move would lead to serious price gouging, rendering the original intention moot. At this stage, it is also likely that private sector involvement will complicate vaccine procurement for all nations. Ultimately, the world needs to listen to the World Health Organization on this for once. As it has warned, tackling the raging coronavirus pandemic must be global collaborative undertaking. In this crisis, we are only as strong as our weakest links. A mad scramble, in any case, threatens to delay recovery.



Reset Earth


The annually occurring ozone hole that opened up over the Arctic in March 2020 was considered as the biggest and deepest on record yet. Scientists called it “an extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon” as the conditions that triggered it occur in rare circumstances. Thankfully, however, the hole was finally closed up by the end of December due to naturally occurring meteorological conditions that prevented harmful chemicals from mixing.
Even though mankind may temporarily be out of the fix, we cannot, at any cost, undermine the damage that the ozone layer in specific and the environment in general has incurred over the past decade. Nature seems to be foreshadowing an unprecedented climate crisis or perhaps our own extinction event! In such a situation there are two lines of actions that ideally need to be taken. The first is at the international level, where legislation and conventions related to climate change and global warming are passed and ratified in order to reduce the carbon footprint of countries around the world. The second relates to creating climate awareness at a societal and generational level. Since the wound has developed over many rigorous years, the healing process will take time and effort.
The UN seems to be at the forefront of this recovery process. Apart from carefully formulating climate conventions to help protect the environment that have been ratified by around 200 countries across the globe, the organisation has recently developed a mobile video game called Reset Earth to raise awareness and educate the audience about the need to preserve the ozone layer. The game also instills a sense of responsibility in those playing, since the journey takes them back in time to find the cause of mistakes made in the past. Such innovative ideas play a vital role in tackling the issue of climate change in the long run. As the new generations gain more and more awareness about ideas of sustainability and resilience, one can hope that they learn from the mistakes that were made in the past and pave a new way forward.

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