A WORLD OF VACCINES

Despite the growing availability of vaccines, the rollout has varied wildly among countries around the globe, leaving many to question when exactly the pandemic will be declared defeated.

A doctor holds a syringe before injecting a patient. Credit: Shutterstock / BaLL LunLa


Around the world, news of approval for the first COVID-19 vaccine could not come soon enough. The BioNTech vaccine, distributed by Pfizer, was the first in the world to receive authorization, when in early December 2020 the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency granted its approval for emergency use.

By mid-March 2021, roughly a year after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic, a handful of vaccines are in use in various parts of the world.

However, despite the growing availability of vaccines, the rollout has varied wildly among countries around the globe, leaving many to question when exactly the pandemic will be declared defeated.

Europe

Vaccine rollouts have had mixed success across Europe.

Despite being the center of production for several available vaccines, governments have struggled to achieve the daily vaccination rates they had initially planned.

Across the EU, vaccination rollouts have failed to bring what was anticipated to be a rapid return to normal life.

In France, the government has pledged that every willing person will have access to a vaccine by the end of summer.

But the rollout has been criticized as being much too slow. By mid-March, just under two months after the start of the country's vaccination campaign, only 25% of the first eligible group, those aged over 75, had received a vaccine.

Across the Channel, the first few months of the UK's vaccine rollout have been seen widely as a success. By mid-March, the country had provided 36.5 vaccine doses per 100 people, second only to Israel, with around 85% of those 55 years and older having received a jab.

The Americas

While the region's most populous country had a slow start, its vaccination drive picked up considerably with the start of 2021.

The United States' vaccine rollout has been accelerating rapidly, with more than 113 million doses administered by mid-March.

That means over 22% of the population have had at least one dose, and 12% are fully vaccinated.

As the rollout continues, however, challenges are likely to arise.

Among a segment of Americans, vaccination has become a political issue, and attempts to curtail the circulation of misinformation on the internet have largely come up short.

Additionally, the country's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, said in mid-March that children, too, would need to be vaccinated if the country were to reach herd immunity levels.

A few thousand kilometers south, Brazil has yet to increase momentum on its vaccine rollout. The country faces a number of challenges in protecting its population against COVID-19.

The nation's president, Jair Bolsonaro, has expressed skepticism about vaccines, mask wearing, social distancing, and the gravity of the pandemic overall.

Brazil is also dealing with a new, more easily contracted variant of COVID-19, and there is some concern that current vaccines may not be effective in providing protection from the new strain.

The Middle East

Israel's vaccination rollout has been the envy of not only the Middle East but the world at large.

By mid-March, more than 55% of the country's population had received at least one shot, and 46% had received two. This has allowed the country to begin reopening its economy. Those who have had both shots receive a unique QR code that allows them access to gyms, restaurants, bars, and theaters.

The scheme is seen as means of encouraging widespread vaccination among the population.

In the UAE, the country's regulator granted approval for the BioNTech in December 2020, and soon after they added the Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines to the national arsenal.

Dubai reopened to tourists in July 2020, and in October, the Emirate began issuing a digital nomad visa, seeking to attract newly-remote workers.

In January 2021, whether in a bid to protect its citizens, lure more digital nomad tourists, or restart its economy, Dubai announced all residents can receive vaccines.

As of mid-March, roughly 60% of the UAE's population had been vaccinated, and while “vaccine tourism” has not yet been touted by the country, it may soon become a reality. A significant contributor to the nation's economy, tourism accounted for 11.5% of GDP in 2019.

Africa

Many countries in Africa are set to receive vaccines through the COVAX scheme, led by the WHO and UNICEF.

In late February, the Ghana and the Ivory Coast became the first two countries to receive COVAX vaccines, with around 500,000 going to the Ivory Coast and 600,000 going to Ghana, both shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine. In total, COVAX will distribute at least 2 billion doses of vaccines before the end of 2021, of which at least 1.3 billion will go to the 92 countries eligible for the scheme.