Uneven Covid-19 Vaccination Rates Lead to Surges in Some Countries

A look at this week's headlines covering the pandemic.

News

Covid-19

Blue areas show Covid cases, while countries that have received medical support from Direct Relief are highlighted in orange. (Direct Relief image)
Blue areas show Covid cases, while countries that have received medical support from Direct Relief are highlighted in orange. (Direct Relief image)

Worldwide, vaccination rates against Covid-19 are increasing, though uneven gains have left many countries vulnerable to surges in hospitalizations and deaths.

According to Our Word in Data, 49.6% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 38.85% is fully vaccinated. 7 billion doses have been administered worldwide thus far.

However, only a small percentage of these doses have gone to low-income countries where just 3.7% of people have received at least one dose.

Worldwide, Covid-19 has been responsible for over 5 million deaths with the majority concentrated in the United States, Brazil, India, Mexico, Russia and Peru.

This week, Bulgaria recorded its highest daily death toll from Covid-19 prompting the health minister to refer to the situation as “a national disaster,” according to ABC News. Romania is seeing an unprecedented surge of coronavirus infections with only 37% of its adult population vaccinated compared to the EU’s average of 75%. In Ukraine, where only 16% of adults are fully vaccinated, EuroNews has reported a surge of infections and hospitalizations. Russia has put a new week-long lockdown in place after new cases hit record highs in the country.

Helsinki Times reports that in the Baltics, where countries are facing record levels of hospitalizations and deaths, Latvia’s Minister of Health has warned that the burden on their health system could force the country to rely on other countries for aid, health care staff, and ICU capacity. Estonia has implemented new restrictions amid a record number of hospitalizations, with the speaker of parliament warning the country is on the “brink of disaster.”

The coronavirus is racing through displacement camps in Idlib Province, Syria—an impoverished, rebel-controlled area in the north-western part of the country—as reported by the Washington Post. Despite the availability of vaccines, conspiracy theories are thwarting vaccination efforts and medical supplies, including oxygen, ventilators, and testing kits are critically low.

In the United States, new coronavirus cases have fallen to less than 75,000 per day, according to the Washington Post, though some states are grappling with surges due to the Delta-variant. Colorado’s governor Jared Polis signed an executive order allowing hospitals to turn patients away when they are nearing full capacity, according to CBS News. Hospital capacity across the state dropped to less than 10% and the positivity rate is currently 8%. NBC News reports the recent wave of the Delta variant targeted overwhelmingly younger, Southern, rural, and white Americans, most of whom were unvaccinated. This is a shift from the demographic impacted early on in the pandemic who were mostly elderly or had underlying conditions and were concentrated in large cities on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

A new, potentially faster spreading “sub-lineage” of the Delta variant, known as AY.4.2, has been identified in labs across at least eight states including California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Washington State, as well as the District of Columbia, according to CBS News. The variant is not believed to cause more severe disease. AY.4.2 now accounts for over 11% of Delta variant cases in the U.K.

Several Asian and Pacific Nations are among the most vaccinated countries in the world and are beginning to ease Covid restrictions, according to CNN. South Korea, Japan, Thailand, and Australia are easing domestic and in some cases international restrictions. China continues to implement its zero-tolerance policy

PAHO says that by the end of the year most of Latin America and the Caribbean will have vaccinated 40% of their respective populations, though vaccination remains a challenge in some countries. In Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Haiti, Guatemala, and Nicaragua vaccination rates have yet to reach 20%. The organization is working to accelerate vaccine deliveries through several channels, including COVAX and donated doses. In the Caribbean—where about 44% of people are vaccinated–Al Jazeera reports smaller islands including Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Anguilla, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are reporting their highest numbers of new infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic.

In the United States, children ages 5-11 can begin getting vaccinated against Covid-19 after the CDC this week gave final approval for use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine among this age group. The country is reopening land borders to vaccinated visitors next week and while many pandemic-related travel restrictions will be lifted, a return to normal largely depends on vaccinating 60 million eligible Americans who have yet to take the vaccine, according to the Washington Post.

NBC News reports the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine has received its first emergency use authorization in Indonesia. The vaccine does not need to be stored at extremely cold temperatures and has proven to be about 90% effective against symptomatic disease. Novavax has applied for emergency use authorization in the U.K, E.U., Canada, Australia, India, and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, In South Africa, a new clinical trial is underway for an oral vaccine developed by Oramed Pharmaceuticals that does not require cold-chain storage, according to SCMP. The vaccine would help overcome distribution barriers in parts of Africa that do not have cold-chain capacity or staff available to inject the current Covid-19 vaccines. Similar trials have been planned in Israel and the U.S.

BioNTech has announced it will be building manufacturing facilities for its Covid-19 vaccine in Rwanda and Senegal, according to The Conversation. This marks the first time mRNA technology will be manufactured in Africa and is expected to increase vaccine coverage across the continent.

Direct Relief’s Response

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Direct Relief has delivered more than 48,000 medical aid shipments containing 6,800 tons of PPE and other medical resources to partners in 56 U.S. states and territories and 111 countries.

Blue areas show Covid cases, while countries that have received medical support from Direct Relief are highlighted in orange. (Direct Relief image)

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