The vaccination campaign around the world is proceeding at too different speeds

The vaccination campaign around the world is proceeding at too different speeds

So far more vaccine doses have been administered in Italy than in all of Africa, and triple in North America than in the South: these disparities are not only a problem for those left behind, but also impact on capacity global to stem the pandemic

(photo: Martin Sanchez / Unsplash) Often, when we talk about comparisons in terms of the pace of the different vaccination campaigns, we start by thinking first of all from the local scale, with evaluations on the differences between regions or between neighboring countries. Thus, since the beginning of the administration started at the end of December 2020, many times the media has focused on the speed of vaccinations in the different regions, or in the different European states. Broadening the perspective, however, it is increasingly clear that the most evident disparities are intercontinental.

Within the Italian territory, for example, the differences are measured in the order of a few percent at most. In front of all there is Molise, with 49% of the population having received at least one dose, and bottom up is Sicily, where we are already over 38%. All other regions fluctuate between 41% and 46%, with advances or delays of the order of a few days compared to each other. And in the European Union (with the exception of the much smaller states, such as San Marino or Malta) we proceed roughly all at the same pace: according to the updated data provided by Our World in Data, we go from 41% in France to 43% of Italy, from the other 41% of Spain to 45% of Germany, from 32% of Norway to the peaks of over 50% only in Hungary and the United Kingdom.

But on a global level, the differences are quite different, and enormous. In Israel, 57% of the population not only received the first dose, but also completed the vaccination course. In large cities such as London, peaks of over 70% have been reached. While in Africa 98% of the total population has not yet seen even a dose of vaccine, so much so that the calculation of the first doses injected in some states of the continent can be rounded to zero percent.

Comparisons , absolute and relative numbers

If in cases like the aforementioned Africa it does not matter how the statistics are calculated, the number of doses administered is so low, in other circumstances it can make a lot of difference in the rankings the fact that the count either on the basis of the absolute number of doses injected or on the comparison with the total population. China, for example, is the country with the absolute record of doses administered - 763 million, over a third of the world total - but in percentage terms it remains well behind the Old Continent. We do not have exact data on who received one or two doses, but we would be at 54% if only first doses had been taken, at 27% if all vaccinated had received two: presumably, the real figure is at the center of this. interval.

The gap between Europe and the United States (383 million doses injected against 300) roughly corresponds to the difference in terms of total population, while the 225 million doses of India indicate a much slower progress, given that the population - nearly 1.4 billion people - is practically double that of Europe and North America combined. And the vaccination campaigns of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan are proceeding even more slowly.

To speak of a delay in the vaccination campaign only for Africa, the Middle East and the East, however, would be an understatement. Japan, which is expected to host the Olympics, is stuck at 10% (including anyone who has received at least one dose), Russia is at 12% and Australia at 17%. And the trend in South America is also striking, which including the virtuous cases of Uruguay (56%) and Chile (58%) has a total of 128 million injected doses, compared to 375 in the northern part of the continent. Then to arrive at the most striking and evident disparities: in Italy we administered more doses than in all of Africa (37 million against 34), the Republic of San Marino more than Madagascar, the United Kingdom more than Russia and Mexico added together.

It is not (only) a race

As can be easily foreseen, each country immediately moved to grab as many doses as possible, and in this geopolitical and economic race they could only excel the richer countries. The result, therefore, is that today we have a part of the world (basically Europe and North America) in which the vaccination campaign is proceeding quickly and the infections have been killed, while in most countries the pandemic is still rampant and the vaccination campaigns have just moved first steps. In an increasingly interconnected world, however, being at the top of the rankings is not enough.

If today it is evident from the data that where the vaccination campaign is at a more advanced stage, infections and deaths are much lower, in the long run term there are at least a couple of elements to take into consideration. The first is that, on a global level and also from an ethical point of view, it makes little sense to aim at eliminating cases in some countries while in others there are no vaccines even for the most fragile sections of the population. And that is why, for example with the UN and WHO's international Covax program, the richest countries are expected to donate doses to those less fortunate. We have been talking about the program for months, but the doses intended so far are not enough to make a difference in the beneficiary countries.

The other aspect concerns the global circulation of the virus: as is well known, one of the main threats to Loss of efficacy of vaccines are variants of the Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus, and greater circulation of the virus translates into a higher probability of further mutations. Therefore, even thinking selfishly, leaving a part of the world uncovered by vaccinations represents a problem and an additional risk for everyone, including countries that have already reached the final part of the first vaccination campaign.

Finally, an element purely scientific: in addition to the number of doses administered, the type of vaccine used also seems to be relevant. While those in use in the European Union show small differences, in other areas of the world vaccines are used that do not seem to give as many guarantees: this is the case of Sinopharm, widely used in the Arab Emirates but evidently unable to contain a proliferation of infections in the country. . In short, it is not enough to vaccinate, but it is also necessary to have vaccines approved with adequate standards.

Poverty and hesitation

In addition to strictly health and human life terms, the disparity in the rhythm of the countryside vaccines is also reflected in the different economic perspectives. In short, the pandemic already seems to have the concrete effect of amplifying the differences between rich and poor countries: if the former are already following the trajectory of reopening, with the progressive removal of limitations, in the others the destructive effect of Covid-19 is still in full swing. Just think that Argentina, which is not one of the most lagging countries, must give up the football America's Cup, and that the aforementioned July Olympics in Japan are very much at risk. And it is unimaginable, at present, a recovery for the vast majority of African countries.

If on the one hand there are those who would like the vaccine but cannot have it, on the other there are also those who, having it, he is not persuaded to do so. Among the elements of disparity in vaccination campaigns, in fact, in the future it seems the issue of accession will also have more and more relevance. In some countries, vaccination hesitation will determine the maximum threshold actually achievable in terms of general population coverage, but in some cases the situation is noteworthy. In Romania, for example, at the moment only one in 5 people are enthusiastic about getting the vaccine, and over 70% would seem to just not want to know, amid well-established conspiracy theories and little propensity to travel to receive their dose. With a coverage percentage of 23% reached, the problem has already become current and urgent.

In short, the more the months pass, the more it is evident that the real challenge of the vaccination campaign will not be running faster than the others, but to recover those countries and those sections of the population who risk being left behind. Representing a public health problem not only locally, but with global repercussions, from which no one is excluded.

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