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World passes 10 billion doses of Covid vaccine administered

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World passes 10 billion doses of Covid vaccine administered

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When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rolled up his sleeve in December 2020 to receive a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, launching one of the world’s first mass deployments of Covid vaccines, he said it marked “the beginning of the end “. of the pandemic.

Thirteen months later, his prediction has proven far from true, but 10 billion doses of vaccines have been administered worldwide, a milestone that reflects the astonishing speed with which governments and pharmaceutical companies have stepped up, allowing many countries to envision a near future in which their populations co-exist with the virus but are not confined by it.

The milestone, reached on Friday, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data project, was not achieved evenly, even though 10 billion doses could theoretically have meant at least one injection for all 7, 9 billion people on the planet.

In the wealthiest countries, 77% of people have received at least one dose, while in low-income countries this figure is less than 10%. As North America and Europe rush to overcome Omicron surges by offering boosters, with some countries even considering a fourth shot, more than a third of the world’s population, many of them in Africa and poor pockets of Asia, still waiting for a first dose.

The United States administered five times as many additional doses – about 85 million – than the total number of doses administered in all of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

“Ten billion doses is a triumph of science but a complete failure of global solidarity,” said Madhukar Pai, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University in Montreal.

And not all vaccines are the same. Those made in China have been shown to be less effective than mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. And while nearly all of the world’s Covid vaccines protect against serious disease, early research suggests most offer little protection against Omicron infection.

The consequences of vaccine deficiency were highlighted by Omicron, which was first identified in southern Africa. Low vaccination coverage creates the conditions for widespread circulation of the virus and with it the possibility of new variants emerging.

The disparities persist even as Covax, the global vaccine-sharing initiative that facilitates the distribution of donations from rich countries, increases its deliveries. After a slow start due to hoarding by rich countries and major epidemics that caused export blockages, Covax said this month that it had delivered its billionth dose – although it was less than half of its original purpose.

Misinformation on social media and distrust of government and pharmaceutical companies have fueled vaccine hesitancy in many countries. Even where people are ready to be vaccinated, delivering doses to remote areas with poor health infrastructure has been difficult.

Thomas Hale, associate professor of public policy at the University of Oxford, said that in sub-Saharan Africa, “we see quite good vaccination rates in cities and capitals, where vaccines tend to land, but this supply heads headfirst into the broader challenges of building stronger health systems in these countries.

High-income countries have announced assistance initiatives, including the Global Covid Corps, a US government program to help countries overcome logistical and delivery obstacles. But experts say another monumental challenge is that rich countries have failed to agree on lifting intellectual property restrictions on vaccines and pressure pharmaceutical companies to share. their technology so that the poorest countries can manufacture doses locally.

South Africa, for example, has set up a center to start developing mRNA vaccines where scientists, with support from the WHO, are trying to reverse engineer the Moderna vaccine from scratch, as the US manufacturer of drugs will not share its technology.

Dr Pai likened it to reinventing the wheel while a car is on fire.

“We have learned through this pandemic that charity does not work in global health, and charity is not the same as justice,” he said. “And that’s what countries are looking for – a fair approach so they can save themselves.”

World passes 10 billion doses of Covid vaccine administered

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