A Series On Medicine And Human Rights: Coronavirus And Health Inequality

In light of the recent pandemic, health inequality worldwide has become increasingly evident. COVID-19 has shocked the world, infecting millions of people and being responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. COVID-19 is a disease which primarily affects the respiratory system. It is transmitted from human to human through direct contact with or respiratory droplets from an infected person. Some countries have the economic and social ability to fight the virus in hand. Others do not have the same resources. In this article we will begin to explore the idea that COVID has increased health inequality. Also, the ways in which governments can begin to tackle this issue. 




Worldwide, many public health campaigns designed to decrease transmission of the virus stress the importance of basic hygiene. There’s a recent evidence put forward by the WHO and the charity UNICEF. It suggests that about 380 million Eastern and Southern Africans have no basic hand-washing facility. Whereas, in Europe, almost 100% of the population have access to clean and safe handwashing facilities. 


In Sub-Saharan Africa, this is said to affect nearly half of the population. Such differences in access to hygiene facilities, particularly the distribution of water and its scarcity, Amongst poorer populations underpin the inequality seen today. 


In 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted around the world. Goal 3 focuses on the promotion of wellbeing and healthy living across the population. Too achieve this, a number of targets were set. To decrease the incidence of non-communicable diseases and to improve environmental health. In order to achieve this goal by 2030 it is vital that populations have fair access to healthcare and medicines. 




There are a wide variety of measures that governments can take to tackle health inequality. These often occur at a societal level, improving equal access to medical interventions like vaccinations.

  • Community based health promotion: Engaging with local communities. We can alter behaviour patterns to include increased handwashing, wearing of face masks and physical distancing. 
  • Improving access to healthcare: providing access to clean water and handwashing facilities. 
  • Tackle the structural issues which perpetuate inequality through improving overall living conditions. If people are given the means to meet their basic needs, they are more likely to take part in activities which improve their overall health. This can greatly reduce an individual’s risk of getting seriously ill.


COVID vaccinations provide one route out of the pandemic and they are being increasingly used in the Western world. In the UK for instance, by mid-February 2021, almost 95% of the population over the age of 80 had been vaccinated. 


Within Africa, the WHO, UNICEF and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, are working together. They are working to aid in the roll-out of the vaccine. This collaboration has been named COVAX. There is growing need for COVAX worldwide. Without it there is a risk that many people will go unprotected from this virus. Thereby allowing it to spread rapidly. COVAX aims to bring together experts from government, global health organisations, scientists and vaccine manufacturers. To provide innovative and equal access to treatment, vaccination and diagnosis of COVID-19. This work will take into account issues surrounding the vaccination program. Including cost, transport and administration using trained health care professionals. 


The fair and equal use of vaccination worldwide is necessary to reduce health inequality.



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