VACCINE-CONSCIOUS TRANS-ATLANTIC RELATIONS

By THO Contributor, Samantha Ellard

According to the Covid World Vaccination Tracker, around 58% of the world is currently fully vaccinated — including over 60% of the United States and Canada and around 60% of Europe. Of the vaccines distributed, 73% of the doses have been to middle and upper class countries, highlighting the disproportionate access to the vaccines. Vaccinations are key to re-establishing a “normal” world in terms of the economy, diplomacy, travel and trade. However, for the trans-atlantic relationship, vaccinations allow for increased travel and tourism, diplomacy and reinvigorated economies. 

Outside of Canada and Mexico, Europe is a significant place of travel for Americans. Like all regions, tourism allows small business to thrive, but also generates the movement of ideas and cultures. The fluctuation of full vaccination rates in Europe range from 80% (Portugal) to about 22% (Bosnia and Herzegovina), filtering travel locations for tourists based on vaccinations. With the increased concern about the Omicron variant, vaccination rates are becoming more decision-based for travelers and tourists. In order to enliven the economy and social settings, vaccinations are the central figure to ensure that success. The European Union instituted a policy of so-called COVID ‘passports’ or ‘Digital COVID Certificate’ to encourage tourism. The member-states adhere to this policy and their economic situations are given an opportunity for growth amidst a stressful, uncertain and strenuous pandemic. A United Nations report outlined that the increase in tourism “was driven by increased traveler confidence amid rapid progress on vaccinations and the easing of entry restrictions in many destinations.” This system is similar to many applied in the United States, and the endorsement of the United Nations signals the encouragement for other regional organizations and states to apply a similar system. The importance of tourism is beyond Europe and vaccination efforts accelerate the effort to increase tourism. 

Beyond the global fight against COVID-19, vaccinations revitalize the global economy, strengthen diplomatic relations and reinvigorate intertwining industries in significant ways. The exploding supply-chains resulting from the pandemic upended industries; therefore, vaccinations are a reasonable path to normalizing workplaces. Weak economic infractures, as a result, shape social behaviors and political motivations which impact diplomatic and multilateral efforts. Despite the time-tested transatlantic relations, fractures are still possible during a time of economic, political and social change and uncertainty. 

Moreover, the trans-atlantic vaccination effort can go beyond personal motivations; confronting the disproportionate vaccine distributions requires unprecedented bi- and multilateral partnerships due to the exacerbation of issues in developing areas. The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) explained “the unequal distribution of vaccines is not only a moral outrage, but economically and epidemiologically self-defeating.” The WHO and other organizations created the COVAX initiative to increase Covid vaccination distribution to developing areas; wealthy countries in Europe and North America have donated millions of vaccine doses. In fact, according to Our World in Data, the United States, European Union, France and Germany are the top four countries for donations to COVAX. The strength and wealth in trans-atlantic relations provides an unparalleled ability to make a dent in global vaccinations. As the Omicron variant garners more concern, vaccination programs like COVAX become increasingly important to the global vaccination effort. 

History has highlighted the transformative power of transatlantic relations in a post-Cold War era in each facet of global politics, but the global pandemic sets a new stage of challenges, especially with vaccination implications. Transatlantic powers have met the moment in unprecedented conditions prior to the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore, the powers must continue to come together to accomplish global challenges in global measures.