Tea Time with Tagwa: First world privilege at its finest

Illustration by Karly Andersen

Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor

Tea timers, let me start by asking you what’s seeming to be the most controversial question of the summer: are you vaccinated?

For some of you, the answer is yes. Others, no. But for most of you, the answer is obvious. You see, the conversation of the vaccine seems to be strictly split in two. Those who support the vaccine believe that there is no other decision to be made, while those who are opposed to it stand firmly on their disapproval of it.

Me? I’m proudly vaccinated. I ensured that all my family members in my home received both of their doses. So, take that to mean what you want. 

But, you know who I wasn’t able to help get vaccinated? My family in Sudan. One March morning, my mother — who lives in Sudan — excitedly called to let me know that she had just gotten her first dose of the vaccine. Surprisingly, Sudan was the first nation in the Middle East and North Africa to receive any form of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

After Sudan received 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine — with help from UNICEF and the World Health Organization — there seemed to be hope for those in the developing world.

Fifteen percent of Americans had been fully vaccinated in the same month that Sudan obtained its first grouping of vaccines. I was fully vaccinated when my mother and country members received their first shipment of vaccinations. 

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 51 million Americans had acquired both doses of the vaccine by the time one shipment of vaccinations even arrived in both the Middle East and North Africa. 

Think about that. Millions of Americans sat in comfort and safety while an entire chunk of the world hadn’t even seen a dose of the vaccine in their area.

This pandemic is worldwide. It does not exclusively affect the Western world. According to the University of Oxford, 32.7% of the world’s population has received one dose of the vaccine and 24.6% of the world is fully vaccinated. Yet, the vast majority of countries who lead in vaccinations are made up by the Western world. 

Meanwhile, the 10 least vaccinated countries are all located in underdeveloped countries. It’s important to note that not every country is listed in the University of Oxford’s study. Many developing countries either didn’t report their vaccination rates or haven’t even received enough vaccinations to report. 

The university’s study states that only 1.4% of civilians in developing countries have received at least one dose. 


For those of you who are refusing the vaccine, would you be adamant against the vaccine if only 1.4% of our nation had access to it? 

Citizens of the Western world — regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc. — live with first world privilege, a notion of unwarranted and unearned advantages acquired simply by being a citizen of a first world country. 

Before you jump in to tell me that poverty, depression, death and all otherworldly tragedies also exist in the United States and the first world, let me clarify a point. First world privilege doesn’t mean that an individual’s life isn’t hard; it just means that their nationality doesn’t play a role in their struggle.

Major access to the vaccine and more advanced healthcare is an example of first world privilege. Government aid programs such as welfare and unemployment relief are an example of first world privilege. Legislation that bans discrimination in employment, service, etc. is an example of first world privilege. The availability of decent public schooling and free lunches is an example of first world privilege.

While many of you contemplate the legitimacy of a scientifically proven vaccine, those in the developing world don’t have that privilege. That same developing world where many of you are spending your summer vacations. Your week in Jamaica seems like a wonderful time but only 9.6% of their population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. So, while you reap all the benefits of their beautiful country while unvaccinated and comforted by the abundance of medical resources back in the United States, most Jamaican natives don’t have the same luxury. 

The reality of the matter is this pandemic affects every single person in the world. Yet, the fight to end it only seems to be present in the Western world. Your unwillingness to utilize such a scarce resource that could potentially help end this pandemic is a slap in the face to all those who don’t have access to the same opportunity. 

Whether you’d like to admit it or not, our first world privilege could prolong this pandemic. And that’s the tea.

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