‘1 bn Covid vax unprecedented feat, but disparities exists’


The speed at which the world has administered one billion doses of Covid-19 jabs, just four months after the World Health Organization (WHO) approved the first vaccine for emergency use, is remarkable, but unequal distribution of the vaccinations highlights global disparities, say researchers.

Just 10 countries have acquired nearly three-quarters of all doses — China and the US alone account for about 50 per cent of all the doses given out, while the entire continent of Africa has received only 2 per cent of jabs.

Around 7.3 per cent of the world’s population of 7.79 billion have received at least one dose, as of April 27, but more than 75 per cent needs to be vaccinated to bring the pandemic under control. This highlights the uneven distribution of vaccinations, both within and between nations.

“It is an unprecedented scientific achievement. Nobody could have imagined that, within 16 months of the identification of a new virus, we would have vaccinated one billion people worldwide with a variety of different vaccines, using different platforms and made in different countries,” Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s chief scientist, based in Geneva, was quoted as saying by the Nature.

The world is also likely to hit the two-billion mark much faster than it hit the first billion, but it is important to ensure global vaccine equity to help curb the pandemic, she added.

“It’s absolutely amazing that in a short time we developed multiple vaccines and gotten a billion doses administered, but the way it’s happened has worsened inequities around the world,” said Krishna Udayakumar, Associate Director for innovation at the Duke Global Health Institute in Durham, North Carolina.

Disparities also exist within nations see. According to a UK study, of 1.1 million people aged over 80 who were treated for health conditions in clinics and hospitals between December and January, 42.5 per cent of white participants had been vaccinated, compared with just 20.5 per cent of Black participants. The same study also found evidence of divides along socio-economic lines, the report said.

“Vaccinating only portions of the population is not an effective strategy, and leaves us vulnerable to new variants,” warned Udayakumar, adding a global response is needed to fight a global pandemic.