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Editor's Choice

From health to climate there is disrespect at the heart of every crisis

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n2735 (Published 11 November 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n2735

Rapid Response:

Re: From health to climate there is disrespect at the heart of every crisis

Dear Editor

COVID has taught very many lessons and the failures we continually see is evidence of our failures to respect these lessons.

At the very beginning, the focus was on border closures and lockdowns, these measures prevented needless loss of lives but their unsustainable nature meant that we have had several waves of infections after the lifting of restrictions. This suggests a different approach is imperative hence the timely and efficient use of vaccines is necessary. The most evident gains of vaccines is in disarticulating the link between infections and severe illness. We are also well aware of what could happen with vaccine effectiveness in the face of mutant strains. In addition we know that mutant strains don't need visas and are invincible to border control. Furthermore these mutant strains would emerge when infections remain unattended to. Ideally this information should have made more equitable vaccine distribution a global priority. But we applied the principles of collaborative science to rapidly develop the vaccines and now employ the principles of isolated selfishness to administer the vaccines leading to poor access, vaccine wastages and needless mortalities. A clear example of the lessons of COVID being missed.

COVID has also told us of what happens when health systems are weak. We have evidence of what happens when we do not tackle vulnerabilities. We now clearly see that telling people to shield without understanding the underlying factors that have left them vulnerable solves no real problems as shielding can't be eternal. Ideally this should make an understanding of global health inequalities and research to understand the disparities in access and clinical outcomes a priority. A focus on understanding how non-health factors like climate change and poverty impact healthcare should be a global concern. But events at the COP26 tell us it is essentially business as usual. There is evidently a clear lack of understanding of the issues and a failure to follow the science and provide a global all encompassing solution to world problems. Whilst we dilly dally, the impact of our failures to decide or decisions to fail would cost lives and the lessons from COVID could have averted this!

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 November 2021
Ekitumi R Ofagbor
Specialty Doctor
Dartford