Low-income countries will also have to spend more to achieve 70% vaccination target
The world is set to miss the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of the global population against COVID-19 by mid-2022, with 2.8 billion people yet to receive a single dose, according to United Nations Development Programme.
Over 60 per cent of the population in high-income countries was fully vaccinated when the goal was set by the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2021. Inoculation was significantly lower (little over 3 per cent) in low-income countries at that point.
The gap has only widened since. Low-income countries (LIC) account for only one per cent of the 10.7 billion doses administered across the world so far, latest analysis by UNDP showed.
Vaccine inequity jeopardises the safety of everyone and is largely responsible for growing inequalities between — and within — countries. Not only does this state of affairs risk prolonging the pandemic, but the lack of equity has many other impacts, slowing the economic recovery of entire countries, global labor markets, public debt payments and countries’ ability to invest in other priorities.
Countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Chad are most vulnerable, with less than one per cent of the population fully vaccinated. Haiti and Yemen paint a concerning picture as well, with just about two per cent of the population fully vaccinated.
Studies have found that if low-income countries had the same vaccination rates as high income countries last September, their gross domestic product would have increased by $16.27 billion in 2021. Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda have lost the highest potential income due to vaccine inequity during the pandemic, UNDP said.
Not only did low-income countries lose potential income, they also have to incur a higher cost to afford vaccinating 70 per cent of the population. High-income countries have to increase their healthcare spending by just 0.8 per cent to reach the WHO target for mid-2022, according to UNDP. In comparison, low-income countries have to increase their healthcare spending by 56.6 per cent.
Sudan’s existing public debt is estimated to increase by $333 million by the end of this year to procure the vaccines it needs, showed a February 2022 analysis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). For Burundi, that figure amounts to $96 million — the cost of healthcare for 39 per cent of the country’s population. Angola needs another $221 million to vaccinate 70 per cent of its population.
“As greater coverage is required to ensure a stop to the spread of COVID-19, unless COVAX is able to support LICs beyond 20 per cent vaccination rate, the financial burden of vaccinating an additional 50 per cent of the population will fall on most vulnerable countries,” the body noted.
Vaccination continues to be our best bet against the pandemic. Access and financing are key areas of concerns and need to be addressed at the earliest possible, IMF noted. The UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet had stated on March 10 that “greater cooperation between countries is needed to stop the pandemic fast, while delayed vaccination could lead to escalated societal tensions and violence, and a lost decade for development.”
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