On the Correlation of the Different Social Sciences on “Vaccine Rollout” and “Education for Development”
The Economy, Geography, and Demography of Vaccine Rollout
Vaccine nationalism, or the “nation first” procurement of vaccines before their availability through bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies, is one of the many negative repercussions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic (Khan, 2021). According to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center (2020), as early as May of last year, high-income countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada already made such billion-dollar deals and secured enough doses to cover their populations multiple times over. This capitalist or even imperialist hoarding of resources deprives poorer countries of vaccines and allows their cases and mutations to rise and inevitably extend the pandemic.
Aside from that, there are economic embargos that double the burden to countries like India to the point where Chief Adar Poonawalla of Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, requested US President Biden to lift such sanctions for better vaccine production via Twitter (Sen, 2021). Cuba, despite developing five late-stage vaccines, also cannot efficiently proceed with its mass vaccination due to the lack of raw materials brought about by the same US sanctions (Oxfam, 2021).
As stressed earlier, vaccine nationalism highlighted the ongoing global divide between the Global North that is majorly back to normal and the Global South that is left behind with surplus scraps. In the latest data of Duke Global Health Innovation Center (2021) as of September 17, almost 7 billion doses are procured by high-income countries, roughly 5.2 billion by upper and lower-middle-income countries, and only 300 million by low-income countries. As shown in the map and graph by BBC News (2021), as of September 21, countries in the Global South (i.e. Africa and Asia) are lagging behind in vaccine rollout; and Asia, specifically, still has the highest regional cases per day.
Aside from the complex issues within the global chain supply, there are other factors that affect vaccine rollout on-ground, specifically vaccine hesitancy. According to a study by Andal et al. (2021), demographic variables such as educational attainment and household income affect a mother’s decision to vaccinate their children. In other words, the more educated and economically stable the people are, the more they are willing to get vaccinated. However, with a 91.6 functional literacy rate and a 7.7% unemployment rate, it will be a challenge for the country to achieve herd immunity anytime soon (Philippine Statistics Authority, 2020; Rappler.com, 2021).
Although we have multilateral efforts like COVAX which according to Belluz (2021) aims to provide vaccines to 92 middle and low-income countries that cannot afford risky bilateral deals, they are getting band-aid surplus scraps at best. First, what we need amid the pandemic is a collaborative economy, not a profit-driven one that commodifies supposed basic human rights like healthcare and upholds genocidal economic blockades. Second, there must be a global equitable distribution of vaccines based on geographical data. A country should have access to vaccines not because they can afford them but because they statistically need them (Paterson, 2021). There is nothing ethical about purchasing amounts of doses that are too beyond your population while the rest of the world is struggling. Lastly, there must be a proactive approach from the government, especially from the health, education, and labor agencies to curb the said demographical variables that negatively affect the vaccine rollout in the country. Education is not an individual task but a collective one that should be given equal focus despite the complexities of the pandemic. The fight against COVID-19 requires collective international solidarity so as long as one country is left behind because of systemic individualism instilled by imperialism, the exploitive cycle we are experiencing will never be over.
The Demography, Geography, and Economy of Education for Development
The demography of students changed a lot amid the pandemic. According to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, at least 2.3 million students from both public and private schools dropped out amid the shift to distance learning last year (Gotinga, 2020). A large portion of this is from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) which experienced a 30% decline in enrollment during the same year. On the other hand, this excludes the 5,500 Lumad students disenfranchised since 2016 due to the continuous cases of school closures, trumped-up charges against students and teachers, and state militarization recorded by Save Our Schools Network (Dino & Sta. Cruz, 2020). These indigenous students are currently seeking sanctuary in makeshift “bakwit” or evacuate schools in the metros of the country but are still not exempt from state harassment.
Learning was already hard for the youth in remote areas with underdeveloped geography before the pandemic. Some would hike mountains, walk long distances, or cross rivers just to access and deliver education. Although our current education setup is home-based, some things never change for rural students and teachers (Aglibot et al., 2020). With the demand for Internet connection, some would go to places where there is one despite the quarantine restrictions and rough terrain. Teachers, too, are not exempt from this predicament because they are tasked to deliver modules and interact with many people which is unsafe (Casilao, 2020).
Going back to the changes in the demography of students last year, some opted to work to sustain their families who were probably disenfranchised, transfer to public schools due to economic pressure, or totally drop out due to the lack of technological resources. These out-of-school youths mirror how deeply commercialized, colonized, and anti-democratic our neoliberal education system is. While local capitalist-educators continue to profit from inflated or retained tuition and other fees despite the off-campus setup, students and teachers are struggling to holistically cope (Riep, 2017). No longer is education serving its constitutional mandate to be a right that is free and of quality — it is now a diploma mill that aims to produce semiskilled and professional workers to be exported to and exploited by foreign imperialist countries (San Juan, 2016).
The only genuine development our education system will ever witness is its transformation to a nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented one — a liberating one. First, we must not treat these revamped demographics as mere numbers but as a pandemic in itself. Second, we must consider the geography of students in rural areas with rough terrain amid this distance setup. Lastly, we must actualize a free and quality education that is tailored to the demands of our nation amid the rising economic difficulties of students and teachers. Only through these measures can we make education concretize its constitutional mandate.
Aglibot, J. R., Mallari Jr., D., Orejas, T., Reyes-Estrope, C., Alipala, J., & Cabreza, V. (2020, October 5). Zambales teachers cross rivers to deliver learning modules. INQUIRER.Net. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1343524/zambales-teachers-cross-rivers-to-deliver-learning-modules
Andal, R., Tan, H. J., Tolentino, D., & Legaspi, L. F. D. (2021). Associated factors related to vaccine hesitancy and the intention to vaccinate their children among mothers. Journal of Public Health and Development, 19(2). https://he01.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/AIHD-MU/article/view/249788/169030
BBC News. (2021, September 20). Covid map: Coronavirus cases, deaths, vaccinations by country. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51235105
Belluz, J. (2021, April 29). India and poorer countries may wait years for Covid-19 vaccines as rich countries hoard them. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2021/4/28/22405279/covid-19-vaccine-india-covax
Casilao, J. L. (2020, August 14). Teachers in remote areas struggle to deliver modules. GMA News Online. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/751406/teachers-in-remote-areas-struggle-to-deliver-modules/story/
Duke Global Health Innovation Center. (2021). Vaccine Purchases | Launch and Scale Speedometer [Dataset]. Duke Global Health Innovation Center. https://launchandscalefaster.org/covid-19/vaccinepurchases
Functional Literacy Rate is Estimated at 91.6 Percent in 2019. (2020). [Dataset]. Philippine Statistics Authority. https://psa.gov.ph/content/functional-literacy-rate-estimated-916-percent-2019
Gotinga, J. C. (2020, September 16). More than 2 million ‘dropouts’ as schools adapt to pandemic — Gatchalian. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/nation/gatchalian-says-millions-dropouts-schools-adapt-pandemic
Khan, A. (2021, February 8). What is ‘vaccine nationalism’ and why is it so harmful? Coronavirus Pandemic | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2021/2/7/what-is-vaccine-nationalism-and-why-is-it-so-harmful
Oxfam. (2021). Right To Love Without a Blockade: The impact of US sanctions on the Cuban population and women’s lives. https://oxfamilibrary.openrepository.com/bitstream/handle/10546/621191/bp-cuba-blockade-women-250521-summ-en.pdf?sequence=4link
Paterson, M. (2021). Global vaccine divide — More science collaboration needed. University World News. https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210402151906225
Rappler.com. (2021, August 3). Labor market stalls as jobless Filipinos reach 3.76 million in June 2021. Rappler. https://www.rappler.com/business/unemployment-rate-philippines-june-2021
Riep, C. B. (2017, March 1). Commercialization of education in the Philippines. Education International. https://www.ei-ie.org/en/item/21092:commercialization-of-education-in-the-philippines
San Juan, D. M. M. (2016). Neoliberal Restructuring of Education in the Philippines: Dependency, Labor, Privatization, Critical Pedagogy, and the K to 12 System. Asia-Pacific Social Science Review, 16(1). http://apssr.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/6.Research-Article_SanJuan-070416.pdf
Sen, M. (2021, April 16). Serum’s Adar Poonawalla urges Joe Biden: Lift embargo on Covid vaccine raw material exports. Mint. https://www.livemint.com/news/india/serums-adar-poonawalla-urges-joe-biden-lift-embargo-on-covid-vaccine-raw-material-exports-11618568692382.html
Written by Allen John Dela Cruz on September 2021 for Disciplines and Ideas in the Social Sciences (DISS)