The COVID-19 pandemic has reached all regions of the planet, with nearly 300 million recorded cases and 5.5 million deaths. With many asymptomatic cases and uneven intercourse, the actual statistics are likely to be much higher.
A year ago, there was a lot of hope and fanfare as the world began to roll out the much anticipated and ambitious vaccination campaign – the fastest in history. In 2021, at least 197 countries administered more than 9 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but the pandemic is far from over.
Progress in global vaccine deployment has been uneven and hampered by supply issues, export bans and vaccine hoarding as wealthier countries rushed to secure limited supplies.
According to Our World in Data, the country administering the most doses is China, with nearly 3 billion vaccinating 84% of the population. India is second, with 1.5 billion doses, vaccinating 44% of the population. The United States comes in third, with more than 500 million doses, vaccinating 64% of its population.
In 2021, Europe has made an ambitious vaccine effort with many countries reaching the important 70% of their populations, which scientists say will give herd immunity and beat the virus. But within Europe, the picture is mixed. Countries like Spain, Denmark and the UK have fully immunized over 85 percent of their population, while smaller countries like Gibraltar have reached 100 percent.
However, several European countries are struggling to protect their populations, including some eastern European states where vaccination rates are still below 50%. Earlier in 2021, vaccine supply problems hampered countries like Bulgaria, Romania and Bosnia and Herzegovina, but, according to the British medical journal, efforts were also hampered in Bulgaria by mistrust of the government, corruption scandals and a lack of confidence in the immunization program – which was amplified by social media.
The Romanian government has also struggled with immunization levels below half of the EU average until 2021, as communication efforts have failed to motivate the population or engage marginalized communities such than the Roma, who represent around 10% of the population and who are often reluctant to be vaccinated. . This triggered a European Commission vaccination campaign in December 2021 to support the efforts of national authorities in Romania.
By the start of 2022, 75% of COVID-19 vaccines had been distributed in just 10 countries around the world. This disparity has led to large swathes of the world going unvaccinated. The World Health Organization, GAVI and CEPI are leading the COVAX initiative to try to ensure that vaccines reach people around the world. Amid vaccine nationalism, export bans and supply chain problems, it has failed to meet its vaccination targets: the original target of delivering 2.2 billion doses by January 2022 has was reduced in September to 1.4 billion.
In May 2021, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, predicted: “The longer we wait to provide vaccines, tests and treatments to all countries, the longer the virus will be. will take hold, the more the potential for variants emerges, the more ineffective today’s vaccines are likely to become and the more difficult it will be for all countries to recover. “
Unfortunately, his warning was not heeded and the virus was unleashed in unvaccinated populations, mutating several times, and more dangerous variants appeared. In India in early 2021, what came to be known as the Delta variant appeared. More easily transmitted and much more deadly, it has quickly spread throughout Europe and the world to become the dominant strain by the end of 2021.
As of January 2022, most of Europe and the United States are facing massive disruption trying to navigate the new variant of Omicron, which emerged in Central Africa and was first sequenced in South Africa. South in November 2021. Disruptive mutations make Omicron much more heritable and within two months it has become a dominant strain worldwide. Once again, COVID-19 has damaged wealthy economies and threatens to put European health systems under immense strain.
The economic cost of vaccine nationalism
The consequences of not controlling COVID-19 go beyond health safety and deaths. The inability to contain the pandemic is also an economic headache. In early 2021, a study commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation found that the global economy stood to lose as much as $ 9.2 trillion if countries pursued a policy of vaccine nationalism and failed to protect the poorest nations. Up to half of the loss would fall on advanced economies blocking vaccine distribution, he warned.
Although the economic benefits of a more equitable distribution of vaccine deployment would eclipse the costs, by 2021 many governments chose to vaccinate their populations first and a very inequitable distribution of vaccines emerged – in 2022, only 1 percent. 100 of the doses had been administered in low-income countries.
In an October 2021 statement, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development said the pandemic “will continue to undermine global and regional supply chains … unless access to vaccines is increased in developing countries as production systems are interconnected “.
As of January 2022, the world is still battling the pandemic, but important lessons have been learned about how countries are interconnected.
Leading scientists agree that the solution to beating the coronavirus lies in the ability to collaborate and fund the global immunization campaign. There is general agreement that the main lesson for 2022 is that countries need to share their knowledge, resources and expertise, while healthcare workers and governments need to communicate effectively with their populations, including communities. marginalized for whom access to health care may be difficult. The challenge will be to implement this lesson.
Another glaring inequality highlighted last year has been vaccine manufacturing, which is mostly concentrated in the United States and Europe. Many are calling for efficient technology transfer and strengthening of manufacturing processes so that vaccines can be distributed more equitably in the future.