You've watched the human misery wrought by Covid in India and other developing nations. So how deep would you be willing to dig to stem the spread and slow the virus' mutation? What if you could make a massive difference for $11?
World leaders will meet on Wednesday at a summit hosted by Japan to take pledges to fund the global vaccination effort, known as COVAX. Australia's fair share has been calculated at $11 per person.
Through a combination of wealth, luck, and good management, Australia has been among the nations least affected by Covid. Yet we now lag behind the world's leading nations when it comes to funding the global vaccination effort.
At the start of the rollout, we were a world leader. Our politicians recognised it was smart and ethical to ensure vaccines went where they were most needed. So Australia made an $80 million contribution to the COVAX initiative in late 2020. We also made separate regional and bilateral agreements to support East Timor, the Pacific and south-east Asia worth $700 million.
However COVAX is the overarching global vaccine effort, and our initial COVAX contribution is now dwarfed by other developed nations in per capita terms. The UK has pledged $A948 million (or $14 per capita), Canada has pledged $A258 million ($7 per capita), Germany has pledged $A1.5 billion ($18 per capita), and the United States has pledged $A3.2 billion ($9 per capita).
Australia's initial COVAX pledge equates to $3.07 per capita.
Yet while Australia's contribution to COVAX has been in retreat, the pandemic has not. The recent outbreaks in India and Papua New Guinea show why urgent action is still required. We need an acceleration in the vaccine rollout.
An additional contribution of $200 million would bring Australia's position in line.
Last month, the world passed the milestone of 1 billion vaccines administered. But 40 per cent of the world's vaccines are going to just 27 advanced countries. The world's wealthy are being vaccinated 25 times faster than low-income nations.
Meanwhile the world's poorest countries have received just 1.3 per cent of the vaccine doses. That's a major problem for Australia.
Australians overwhelmingly support further investment in making sure vaccines are available for those who need it most. A YouGov poll published in April this year showed 76 per cent of Australians support the COVID-19 vaccination effort in PNG, even if it means drawing from our own stockpile.
Australians understand Covid will not be over for us until it is over for everybody. Infectious diseases do not respect borders. Investing in COVAX to vaccinate the world is the best contribution Australia can make to a safer, healthier world.
As COVID-19 continues to spread, new virus variants are emerging with increasingly concerning characteristics. There is no guarantee the current global portfolio of vaccines will prove effective against new strains. So in the context of this unprecedented pandemic, equity is not just the right thing to do - it is the necessary thing to do. Speed is of the essence. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
Then there is also the issue of regional stability. As tensions in the Asia-Pacific run high, Australia has the chance to enhance our unique position as being the most relied-upon nation in times of crisis.
Over the past century in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia has been the first port of call for leadership and action in troubled times. From providing aid to Vanuatu to rebuild after natural disasters, to sending military forces to Timor-Leste to help stabilise the newly independent nation, we've always looked after our mates when needed.
And isn't this the way we'd like to see ourselves in the world?
Providing help to our friends in times of crisis has been a long-standing pillar of our strong national security, and has resulted in long-term stability for Australia and our region. We can't afford for that to change now.
That policy success and the decades of goodwill we've built up with our neighbours is at serious risk if we waver on our commitment to the COVAX initiative.
$11 per person seems a small price to pay when our national security - and character - is at stake.
- The Reverend Dr Tim Costello is a former chief executive of World Vision Australia.