A new category of racism is being designed. Its called Vaccine Racism

Karthiga Ratnam
4 min readJun 5, 2021

“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don’t have to pretend to be free of racism to be anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it’s the only way forward.” — Ijoema Oluo

Racism. Why does it exist? What is racism? Here’s a textbook definition:

Source — Google

No one is born a racist. So we learn this particular form of prejudice/bias/discrimination as we grow. How do we learn racism? Do our parents teach it to us? Do we pick it up in schools?

Racism is rooted in superiority. We are all human beings. There is no king of the jungle analogy here. Then why do we think one set of people are superior to another?

It is broadly agreed that the most explicit form of racism was slavery. And it was justified because the people forced into slavery were deemed less than human. And since then we know how much of the geopolitics of the world has been shaped by racism. We have also witnessed firsthand the effects of systemic and structural racism and its role in fueling hate and conflict.

Today we are all forced to confront our biases. That’s how inherent a problem it has become. The folks at Project Implicit even have a test to check our social attitudes and biases.

The pandemic has “created” a new category of racism — vaccine racism. And that is rooted in a fundamental belief or bias that vaccines from certain countries are better than others.

A recent news report on TRT world detailed how the EU and Saudi Arabia had left out the Sinopharm vaccine on its approved vaccinated travelers' list.

Source — Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

In an opinion piece, the New York Times wrote:

Chinese and Russian vaccines were initially dismissed in Western and other global media, partly because of a perception that they were inferior to the vaccines produced by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNtech or AstraZeneca. And that perception seemed to stem partly from the fact that China and Russia are authoritarian states. — Source — https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/05/opinion/covid-vaccines-china-russia.html

I am not even going to get into the definition of an authoritarian state or why such a thing would bring to question the science behind the vaccines developed there.

I also have read multiple posts about vaccine colonialism.

China has one of the oldest medical systems in the world. Ancient Chinese medical approach has been to treat the body holistically rather than just the symptom. Acupuncture is widely practiced in the West and is becoming more widely accepted as a pain relief treatment.

In the United States, Chinese medicine is also becoming increasingly integrated with biomedical practices and is often used in conjunction with medical treatments and psychological care. — Source — https://www.actcm.edu/chinese-medicine

The pandemic has brought to light many inequalities that exist in this world. Just looking at the vaccination numbers and access to vaccines will give you a good idea of the divide.

Source — https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

Why then do we have to add to our woes? If scientists are to be believed COVID-19 is here to stay. It's going to be an endemic part of each country.

Do we really want to prolong lockdowns, mask-wearing, and social distancing because of our biases and prejudice? Or do we want to try and get back to some semblance of normalcy as a planet?

It’s really important for us to not miss the forest for the trees. More categories of racism are not what the world needs right now. How on earth are planning to unite to fight climate change if we can’t unite to get the world vaccinated?

As we stand up to centuries of systemic racism and inequalities in the world, we should be careful not to create branches of it. Not contribute towards the inequalities that are already prevalent.

The world already has enough hate and conflict, do we really need to add to it? As Ban Ki-Moon says:

“Racism and racial discrimination have been used as weapons to engender fear and hatred. In extreme cases, ruthless leaders instigate prejudice to incite genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.” — Source — https://news.un.org/en/story/2012/03/406882-international-day-un-warns-about-link-between-racism-and-conflict

PS:- If you want to contribute towards mapping the cause and effects of hate and conflict, do join us at the Wicked 7.



Karthiga Ratnam

Impact-Driven Category Designer | Working group member Wicked 7