Vaccine apartheid is the reality for developing economies
By Ricky Browne
Barely two months after Margaret Keenan became the first person in the UK to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Britain is now leading the world in its vaccination programme, having vaccinated 20 percent of its adult population – more than 10 million shots in arms.
Well, Israel and the United Arab Emirates, are still ahead. But Britain has vaccinated more people than them put together.
And the Daily Mail was predicting that at this rate the UK could vaccinate itself out of lockdown by April 7th, by which point all people older than 50 years old should have received their first vaccine.
“One in five adults in the UK has now received a first dose of the vaccine”, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Thursday evening.
“Every jab gets us closer to defeating the virus, so please come forward when you are called for the vaccine by the NHS,” he tweeted.
His tweet got almost 10,000 likes by Friday afternoon and 1,400 comments.
Over in France, President Emmanuel Macron also tweeted on some impressive numbers, but given that the French vaccination programme has been a damp squib in comparison – his numbers were on a completely different topic all together.
The vaccination programme in France and most of the EU – well all of it really – is not keeping up with the US or the UK, thanks – it seems – to the EU’s difficulty in moving swiftly. As a result, France has
“A new historical record for apprenticeship in 2020! For the first time, France has passed the bar of 500,000 apprentices recruited,” Macron tweeted.
“Let’s continue to ensure a better professional future for our young people.”
The tweet, which went out at 9:12 am, received 4,900 likes and 666 retweets by Friday afternoon.
So Britain has a lot to be pleased about, in terms of its vaccination campaign.
The UK has vaccinated 11 million people so far – only exceeded by two countries: the United States with 35 million and China with 32 million. But because of the difference in populations, it means that the UK has vaccinated 20 per cent of its adult population, and 15.45 percent of its total population, according to Our World in Data. This compares to 8.34 percent of the total population in the US and a mere 2.17 percent in China.
Outside of the UK, the best performing European country is Malta, which has vaccinated 5.9 percent of its population. Iceland follows with 3.55 percent, then Denmark with 3.33 percent.
Neighbouring Ireland has vaccinated 3.08 percent – which puts it ahead of Spain at 2.7 percent and Germany at 2.57 percent.
France has so far vaccinated only 2.49 percent according to Our World in Data. That’s slightly below the EU average of 2.51 percent.
The only place in Europe to have vaccinated more than the UK is Gibralter, which has vaccinated 38.95 percent of its population.
So Europe in general may have cause to be disappointed about its vaccine campaign – that is until you consider that it is still doing much better than most of the rest of the world.
But take another look at the list and the issue of what is being termed Vaccine Apartheid, becomes clear.
So far 1.2 percent of the world has been vaccinated.
“Nine out of 10 people living in the poorest countries are set to miss out on a vaccine this year. Production delays put even this figure in doubt. Unjustifiably high prices block access and threaten to push more countries into an ever-deeper debt crisis. If we continue to pursue the vaccine model we have, we will fail to get this pandemic under control for years to come,” said Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director in The Guardian.
“Make no mistake, the costs of vaccine inequality will not be confined to those living in the poorest countries,” she said.
Very few countries outside of the Middle East have started to vaccinate their populations. In Latin America, Brazil leads with 1.45 percent of its population vaccinated. Its followed by Chile at 1.47 percent and Argentina, with 0.66 percent of its population vaccinate. Then comes Mexico at 0.49 percent, Costa Rica at 0.9 percent and Ecuador at 0.04 percent.
In the Caribbean, for example, only the Cayman Islands – a British colony – has vaccinated a significant proportion of its population – 11.89 percent. No other country in the Caribbean is listed as having vaccinated anyone. No Cuba – which is trying to create its own vaccines, no Jamaica, no Haiti, no Dominican Republic.
In Africa, the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean have also done very well so far, having vaccinated 36.39 percent. No other African country is on the list – though Guinea is known to have vaccinated 25 people so far, including its 82 year old president.
In Asia, the country with the highest level of vaccination is the city state of Singapore, which has vaccinated three percent of its population. China follows. And then there is Indonesia at 0.26 percent.
But the fact is that most countries are not on the list at all. And when they will start to vaccinate is largely unknown. Many will have to wait for countries like the UK to vaccinate their populations and then release their excess vaccinations. Many will have to wait for new vaccines to be introduced. Many will have to wait for an increase in production.
The longer this pandemic continues, the longer this virus will continue to mutate – with new and potentially more lethal variations coming into existence. Already the world is dealing with British, Brazilian and South African variants that are proving more difficult to deal with.
So while it is necessary for the developed world to vaccinate itself as quickly as possible, it is also necessary for the developing world to be vaccinated as well. Because the virus does not respect borders, and new variants could defeat the efficacy of existing vaccines.