In this last article, and thus the final argument of the essay, we move on to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on health inequality, and in what forms this may have taken place. In addition, we collect our arguments and state our conclusion to the question ‘How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted inequalities?’.
Finally, healthcare is a significant priority when an infectious virus is spreading across the globe, and so the pandemic’s grip on hospitals everywhere highlighted the inequalities faced in the sector while also creating new ones. Health inequalities in the UK that were already present were brought to attention when the pandemic first hit, as most doctors and, therefore, funding had gone to major cities, so resources and labour were unfairly and disproportionately allocated. This left regional hospitals suddenly flooded with patients severely underprepared to fight the virus and dependent on the 18000 former doctors, nurses and other NHS staff who voluntarily returned to work to mitigate this crisis. However, this inequality mostly disappeared at the height of the pandemic when infection rates were at their highest, as most hospitals were struggling, vastly underequipped and exceeding capacity, although a new form of inequality arose – vaccine inequality. In the pandemic, a disparity formed in vaccine rollouts, where low-income countries received much fewer doses and much later, forcing them to endure high infection rates longer.
The graph shows how high and upper-middle-income countries could administer the 1st dose and 2nd dose to almost everyone in their populations, while lower-middle-income countries are almost there with the 1st dose. In stark contrast, low-income countries struggle to reach even 20%. When the first announcements of a vaccine were made, wealthy countries like the UK and US rushed to the front of the waiting list, purchasing unnecessarily large quantities of doses to ensure they could ensure complete vaccination of their populations. However, this came at the cost of developing countries struggling in the pandemic who could not afford to wait years to receive them. In addition to long waiting lines, the cost of the vaccines also caused such disparity. To vaccinate 70% of their population, high-income countries would have to increase healthcare spending by 0.8% – for low-income countries, this amounts to an increase of 56.6%, which the majority cannot afford to do. As a result, the return to normal function for these countries will become heavily delayed, adversely impacting economic growth and worsening inequality in development between high and low-income countries.
The pandemic has widened all three of these inequalities while exposing new ones within them, with the recurring theme of wealth – wealthy households grew in net worth, wealthy countries lost less learning time, and wealthy nations could get more vaccines faster. In each case, wealth has always been at least one of the determining factors, and those without it have been left behind and suffered for it. Ultimately, before solving each of these inequalities individually, we must first tackle the unfair advantages given to those wealthier individuals, households and countries.
 Graph and data from https://data.undp.org/vaccine-equity/
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