OPINION: The way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is through globalization

Vedant Kulkarni is a senior and a member of the Student Governing Association executive branch. (Archive photo by John Chapple | Collegian Media Group)

One year ago today, no one could have imagined that a microscopic organic molecule called SARS-CoV-2 would hold the entire world hostage. Together, we face an enemy that has financially, mentally, physically and economically devastated people around the world.

Many people were quick to blame globalization for this situation. However, blaming globalization for what happened is ill-informed at best and dangerous at worst.

We live in a world that is getting increasingly interconnected. Borders are slowly disappearing and we are becoming more dependent on one another. During this pandemic, we became more dependent on other nations to provide us with important equipment, like N95 masks, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 testing supplies.

Even after all this, people around the world blamed globalization for the pandemic. This blame game started because people are generally uninformed about globalization. People tend to believe that globalization is only about immigration — that is false.

Investopedia defines globalization as not just people immigrating, but rather the spread of products, technology, information and jobs across national borders and cultures. Economically, it is the interdependence of nations around the world fostered through trade.

When COVID-19 hit, we were quick to restrict global travel and rightfully so. But that decision did not mean the end of globalization — it was about putting globalization to the test. Nations worldwide came together to supply each other with the aforementioned necessities.

The world is currently working to develop a COVID-19 vaccine to start a global immunization program. Per the World Health Organization, 172 countries are actively involved in the development of a vaccine and therapeutic treatments for the illness. These nations are also engaged in a dialogue to participate in COVAX — a WHO global initiative that hopes to work with manufacturers to provide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines worldwide.

Once a vaccine is approved, nations around the globe will desperately need it for their citizens. The only way to ensure that we can vaccinate and immunize all 7.8 billion people is through globalization. Only a global eradication project — similar to those carried out for smallpox and Polio in previous decades — can help us out of this pandemic and put an end to COVID-19.

In a report titled ‘Globalization and Infectious Disease: A review of linkages,’ WHO said that, while a good quality disease surveillance pattern can help detect a disease’s pattern, it is almost impossible to conclude that globalization contributes to disease spread. To prove in any way that globalization is responsible for the increasing prevalence of infection would require standardized monitoring of exposure, the outcome and other determinants of a disease over several years. Even if a causal association was detected, there would be considerable dispute over whether the process or infection was caused by globalization.

This research does not mean that globalization is not a contributor to some aspects of COVID-19 spreading. When countries failed to act on the spread of the novel coronavirus by not halting global travel soon enough, the virus spread and became one of the worst pandemics in documented world history.

However, some nations, like New Zealand, Vietnam and Taiwan, did a fantastic job by immediately halting travel and imposing strict lockdowns. Doing so allowed control over the virus’ spread and helped these nations restart their economies.

The entire world is working together to end this pandemic. One report by the multidisciplinary science journal Nature.com suggests that India may be the leading global supplier of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nature.com reports that the world’s largest vaccine maker — the Serum Institute of India — has already agreed to manufacture one billion doses of the vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford and the UK Pharma company AstraZeneca.

This vaccine is in Phase III clinical trials in Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States to test its global effectiveness. Should this project succeed, one dose of the vaccine would cost a buyer nation around $3, making it cheap enough to reach globally. This alone stands out as a fantastic example of how globalization will help us end the COVID-19 pandemic.

While people think that the COVID-19 pandemic would mean the death of globalization, it actually shows the disasters that can happen when nations try to conquer a crisis alone. When the pandemic started in China, the rest of the world had over two months to prepare themselves to prevent transmission.

On Dec. 31, 2019, China alerted WHO about the occurrence of the disease in Wuhan and announced the first death related to COVID-19 on Jan. 11. By Feb. 10, China had over 900 confirmed deaths and 40,000 infections. The world had weeks to prepare for the pandemic by ordering kits, masks and getting their health systems ready, but the reluctance to believe this issue could be a global issue enabled the global pandemic.

The lack of preparedness of governments around the world cannot be blamed on globalization. On the contrary, the transparent exchange of crucial information regarding the disease will help us develop functioning vaccines and medication to help us control the spread.

Globalization is not perfect. Just like every other economic system, it has its pros and cons. However, in the world we’re living in right now, we need to utilize globalization and help one another to end this pandemic. Globalization is the whole world coming together. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Vedant Deepak Kulkarni is a Collegian contributor and a senior in management information systems and mass communications. He is also the international student affairs director in the Student Governing Association cabinet. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.