Not so very long ago, corona was first and foremost a popular and refreshing Mexican beer. But for more than a year, we have been living with the virus and the disease, with large parts of the world still dealing with the resulting lockdowns and inundated hospitals. Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel: we have started vaccinating people. How are the different developed and emerging countries doing?
Israel is leading the way, with more than 60% of the population having been vaccinated, and life for those who have had shots is more or less back to normal. Images of jubilant people filling terraces in Tel Aviv have featured frequently in the news recently. Things are also going well in the US and the UK, both of which started their vaccination program relatively early. EU countries are lagging behind, with a current vaccination rate of 16%, yet the pace of vaccinations is now on par.
In emerging countries, vaccination rates and the pace of vaccinations are significantly lower in most cases. Two exceptions are Hungary and Chile. Both countries have a relatively high infection rate, but at the same time have been quick to procure vaccines. Hungary has also procured Russian Sputnik and Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, against EU policy.
And then there are countries where the vaccination rate is still low, but the disease has remained under control. This is true for China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. There is less urgency to act fast in these countries, despite this meaning they will need to remain vigilant for longer.
But there are also countries where things are going less well. First up is India, a big producer and exporter of vaccines, which has administered more than 100 million vaccine doses. Relative to the total population, however, this is just 7%, while the number of new infections is soaring. The vaccinations are not coming soon enough and lockdowns to curb the new wave seem inevitable, although not everyone seems of aware of the danger considering the recent images of religious festivals.
Second is Brazil, the country where President Bolsonaro systematically plays down the disease and where there is little to no national prevention policy in place. The virus has hit hard, with high infection and death rates. In terms of vaccinations, Brazil is doing a little better than some other emerging countries, but the policy response has been inadequate there too, as the country has put too much focus on AstraZeneca, and missed other options. Given the severity of the disease, more vaccinations are desperately needed.
Other emerging countries have shown a mixed picture but, with a few exceptions, are lagging behind the Western world in the roll-out of vaccines. A resurgence of virus infections remains a risk, also for countries where the infection rate is currently relatively low.
In the West, we hope to have vaccinated enough people by the summer to start returning to normal life. Large Asian countries such as Japan, China and Korea are lagging behind in terms of vaccinations, but Covid-19 is much better under control there. Vaccinations are being administered in the rest of the world too, but at a much slower pace. And in several countries, new infections are still high.
So, while pavement cafés in some countries will be allowed to reopen soon, corona will primarily remain a serious and impactful disease for a large part of the global population this year.
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