Health

COVID-19 vaccines: What the world needs & what we have

While 168 countries are currently administering COVID-19 vaccines, the distribution remains skewed

 
By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Thursday 22 April 2021
Why the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is now a global game changer

Battle lines in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) remain flexible: Countries across the world have been scrambling to create a protective shield around their citizens through vaccines. Even a casual look at the vaccination numbers reveals the new paradigm of vaccination-haves and vaccination-have nots.

Only 928 million jabs had been administered across the world (as of April 21, 2021), according to Johns Hopkins University, US. That ensured complete inoculation of less than 3 per cent of the world’s adult population.

The world will manufacture 9.5 billion doses by the end of the year, estimated data analytics firm Airfinity. It, however, needs more than 14 billion doses as soon as possible — nearly thrice of what the world was producing, according the GAVI international vaccine alliance.

While 168 countries are currently administering, the distribution remains skewed. As a region, North America has ensured complete vaccination to 15.5 per cent of their adult population. It is followed by Europe (6.78 per cent) and South America (4.14 per cent).

Asia — which is home to two major vaccine manufacturers China and India — has managed to cover a little more than 1 per cent of its adult population. In the case of Africa, the share further drops to 0.33 per cent.

The gap is likely to continue to increase in the coming months as North America is vaccinating at a rate of 0.68 doses daily per 1,000 adult population, followed by Europe (0.42), South America (0.2), Oceania (0.17), Asia (0.14), and Africa 0.01.

While there is no consensus on how much vaccine coverage is enough to check the disease outbreak, Israel on April 18 became the first country to allow people to visit public places without a mask after the country successfully vaccinated 50 per cent of its adult population.

According to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a non-governmental organisation headquartered in Oslo, wealthy and middle-income countries have booked more than two-thirds of the vaccines that companies promise to produce by the end of the year. The remaining doses would cover as little as 28 per cent of the populations of 92 of the world’s most impoverished nations.

This is a cause for concern as the geography of COVID-19 cases have also shifted over the past year—from developed to developing regions. So the failure to provide timely vaccines would mean resurgence of the virus.

There are also fears that current vaccines could be ineffective in fighting newer strains. In January, North America and Europe reported the bulk of new cases.

In April so far, Asia has recorded the maximum 6 million new cases, followed by Europe (3.5 million), South America (2.46 million), North America (1.65 million) and Africa (0.23 million).

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