Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg condemned “high-income countries” in remarks before the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) on Monday for vaccinating young, healthy citizens against Chinese coronavirus rather than donating vaccine doses to at-risk populations abroad.
Thunberg, who has no significant expertise in public health or biology, addressed a W.H.O. event on “vaccine equity” – or the fair distribution of Chinese coronavirus vaccines to citizens around the world regardless of the wealth or competence of their governments – after agreeing to donate $120,000 to the U.N. agency’s vaccine distribution efforts. W.H.O. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus applauded the young climate activist for “her commitment to making our world a healthier, safer and fairer place for all people.”
Thunberg’s call for wealthy states to help vaccinate at-risk people in poorer countries before their own young, healthy citizens indicated a rift between her movement and mainstream left-wing voices in the United States, particularly President Joe Biden, who has called it a “patriotic” duty for young people in America to get vaccinated.
“One in four people in high-income countries have received a coronavirus vaccine compared with just one in over 500 in low- and middle-income countries,” Thunberg told the W.H.O. “And the international communities, governments, and vaccine developers must step up their game and address the tragedy that is vaccine inequity. Just like with the climate crisis, those who are the most vulnerable need to be prioritized, and global problems require global solutions.”
“It is completely unethical that high-income countries are now vaccinating young and healthy people if that happens at the expense of people in risk groups and on the front lines in low- and middle-income countries,” Thunberg asserted. “And this is a moral test. We talk today about showing solidarity and yet vaccine nationalism is what’s running the vaccine distribution.”
“We need to protect and prioritize the most vulnerable people in risk groups and on the front lines, no matter which countries they come from, at least that’s my opinion,” Thunberg stated later in the event, adding, “of course I understand that people will be frustrated by that. Of course, I also want to return to everyday life … but we need to act in solidarity, use common sense.”
The Biden administration has invested heavily in convincing young, healthy Americans to schedule coronavirus vaccinations, coordinating with states to make all adults in the country eligible by April 19.
“For months I’ve been telling Americans to get vaccinated when it’s your turn. Well, it’s your turn, now,” Biden said on Sunday, addressing younger Americans in Democrat Party-run states that had yet to lower the eligibility age before Monday.
In early April, Biden specifically addressed “Republican men, particularly young men,” claiming that they have a “patriotic responsibility” to receive coronavirus vaccinations.
Top American public health celebrity Dr. Anthony Fauci has also invested significant time in attempting to court younger audiences, appearing in the Latin American Music Awards alongside 1990s hitmaker Ricky Martin and using the mobile phone application Snapchat to encourage young Americans to schedule vaccinations.
Thunberg is 18 years old and thus eligible to be vaccinated in her native Sweden. The country has approved four vaccine products for distribution to those over 18, regardless of health status: the American vaccines by firms Pfizer and Moderna, a third American vaccine by Johnson & Johnson (since suspended for use in the United States), and the controversial product by the Swedish company AstraZeneca. Thunberg has not stated publically that she has received the vaccine and claimed last year that it was “extremely likely” she had been infected with the Chinese coronavirus, which would create antibodies naturally.
Thunberg added in her remarks to the W.H.O. by urging young people to “act in solidarity with the people in risk groups,” though she did not elaborate on whether she recommended young people simply refuse to be vaccinated until all vulnerable people on earth have access to vaccine products. She also explained her interest in the pandemic from an environmental perspective, arguing that the alleged “climate crisis” was key to understanding the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
“Science shows that, in the future, we will most likely experience more frequent and more devastating pandemics unless we drastically change our ways and the way we treat nature,” Thunberg said. “Today, up to 75 percent of emerging diseases come from animals … we are creating the ideal conditions for diseases to spill over from one animal to another and then to us.”
Thunberg did not address the nation where the pandemic originated, China, or its status as the world’s worst polluter. China’s environmental policy for the next decade, as permitted by the global Paris Agreement on climate, allows it to continue increasing carbon emissions despite being responsible for more emissions than any nation in the world. China is also home to one of the world’s largest assortment of “wet markets,” open-air venues where animals, often from the wild, are butchered for food in front of customers. Animal rights groups have for years warned that animal abuses at wet markets, as well as the unregulated traffic in animal meat, increases the likelihood of infectious diseases spreading among humans. China reopened its wet markets in April 2020 with the blessing of the World Health Organization.