The Global Vaccine Race Against Time And Variants

Despite pandemic fatigue and complacency in too many countries, vaccine inequality will penalize poorer economies, which are also likely to prove more vulnerable to new variants.

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In the past month or two, too many countries struggling with COVID-19 have been lulled into fatigue and complacency, despite holiday spikes. Since vaccination drives have begun, the assumption is that pandemic challenge is pretty much behind. 

Both assumptions are flawed. Vaccine drives in emerging and developing economies will occur significantly later than in advanced economies. And by then, new variants may test vaccine effectiveness. 

The net effect? When high-income economies will eventually open their borders, middle-income economies will be exposed to new strains that could prove more contagious, more protracted and more lethal. And the vulnerability of low-income economies will prove even higher.

Vaccine inequality penalizes poorer economies

In early February, or two months into the global rollout of coronavirus vaccines, a handful of high-income economies in the West had hoarded 80 percent of the vaccination doses used thus far. There were almost 130 countries with 2.5 billion people that had not been able to administer even a single dose.

The disparity is far greater if China, an upper-middle-income nation, is excluded. In that case, middle-income nations represent nearly half of global coronavirus cases, but just 17 percent of doses administered. 

In economies of more than 50 million people, two high-income economies, the United States and the United Kingdom, have been most active in hoarding vaccines, after each mismanaged the pandemic. They are followed by Turkey, Germany, the EU, Italy, and France. Except for Turkey, most middle-income countries come only thereafter, including China, Russia, Bangladesh, Mexico, India and so on (Figure 1).

Figure 1 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses*

 

* Cumulative COVID-19 vaccination doses administered per 100 people Feb. 26, 2021

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Disclosure: Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist of the multipolar world and the founder of Difference Group. He has served at the India, China and America Institute ...

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