A vaccination a day keeps the pandemic at bay. It’s no secret that the UK’s handling of lockdown measures was… delayed. However, did we rectify our mistakes with our administration of COVID-19 vaccines? What determines the success of vaccine rollout? Why are some countries better at it than others?
A Successful Rollout
Doses given per 100 people (as of 11th Feb):
Israel – 66.4
UAE – 47.9
UK – 20.3
US – 13.5
EU – 4.2
As the data above highlights, increased vaccine administration seems to be associated with the presence of efficient universal healthcare systems. Perhaps these facilitate rapid vaccination as it makes it easier to match the supply and demand in a country. The benefit of technology is that healthcare data can be processed and digitized effectively, so citizens can receive an immediate appointment for a jab if eligible.
Healthcare staff have collaborated with religious leaders to ensure community turnout
Another key factor of rollout success is the national attitude towards vaccines. An observation of Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain reveals an investment into reassuring residents of the safety and efficacy of vaccines. For example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first Israeli to receive the jab and did so on live television. Furthermore, healthcare staff have collaborated with religious leaders to ensure community turnout and the UAE issued an Islamic ruling ?in favor of the vaccine. Being comfortable with vaccines is the first step towards actually getting them.
A Struggling Rollout
Vaccine cynicism seriously impedes a country’s efforts to vaccinate people. This cynicism is frequently based on false information and conspiracy theories. Hint: it’s not Bill Gates’ fault. Other times, comments from a particular Prime Minister begin a road to vaccine ‘nationalism’ –with people avoiding vaccination unless they receive the AstraZeneca jab (or the “English one”). Vaccine nationalism has also essentially put a price on the clinically vulnerable globally.
Higher-income countries, which were able to obtain contracts with vaccine manufacturers early, were the first to start vaccine rollout. By comparison, many lower-income countries have been late or not started vaccinating often waiting for more cost-effective options like vaccines by AstraZeneca. WHO have since criticised how ?profits have at times taken precedence over fair, distributive access.
Individual states, rather than the US government itself, have been responsible for deciding priority groups
Nation-wide disorganisation can hinder vaccine rollout; less than 50% of doses distributed to the US had been administered by the end of January. Individual states, rather than the US government itself, have been responsible for deciding priority groups and figuring out how to reach them.
Nevertheless, President Biden has significant plans to increase US vaccine supplies early in his presidency. Alongside re-joining WHO, these plans include the administration of 100,000,000 doses in his first 100 days in office.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the EU has also been struggling with rollout. For perspective, 18.8 million doses of the vaccine have been administered across the member states (consisting of 448 million people). In contrast, the UK alone has given more than 13.6 million doses. What happened?
The AstraZeneca Row
Nothing says “pandemic” more than economic drama. In early 2020, the EU signed a deal for 300 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. All good? No.
Reductions in supply, stemming from manufacturing problems, were announced by AstraZeneca. The EU would later question AstraZeneca on whether vaccines produced within the EU were delivered to the UK and demand that vaccines made at UK manufacturing sites were diverted to the EU to increase its supply. Yet the claims were not fully rational. For example, the delay could be explained by the UK signing its contract three months before the EU. Furthermore, the European Medicines Agency has been slower to approve the AstraZeneca‘s vaccine. By comparison, the UK government approved the vaccine a month ago. So, can the blame really be directed to AstraZeneca?
Alongside dwindling Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine supplies, what does this mean for the EU? Mainly, certain EU members (including Paris and Madrid) have had to cancel first doses to guarantee a second jab for already-vaccinated citizens. Subsequently, there is a longer wait for initial first doses and an even longer wait for total population immunisation.
Quick Restrictions. Slow Rollout?
Despite initial rapid lockdown measures, certain countries have been distributing COVID-19 vaccines much slower (if at all). Regulators in Asian regions with limited COVID-19 spreading are eager to wait for more safety data (from Western countries) before current vaccines begin to be utilised in there.
Japan are yet to start Phrase Three trials for experimental vaccines
For others, the low rate of infections means that there is a struggle to fully complete clinical trials on locally developed vaccines. For example, Japan are yet to start Phase Three trials for experimental vaccines, which are unlikely to be ready before 2022.
Asia’s hesitancy starkly contrasts with the enthusiasm displayed by the US and Europe, where cases are rampant, and vaccines cannot come quickly enough. It should be noted that these differing approaches may divide the world: some nations are vaccinated, and others are not. Consequently, economic recovery and international travel both lie in uncertainty. Still, the concept of controlled outbreaks (if only the UK could relate!) makes vaccination optional as opposed to essential.
Whether you have confidence or not in COVID-19 vaccines, they represent another step closer towards that holiday or pub trip we all want. COVID-19 is still a huge health issue and the need for rapid immunisation is clear. While it may be years until we can move on from this pandemic, the rate of the UK’s current vaccine rollout suggests better days are coming.
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