Is every country getting the COVID-19 vaccine? 

As parts of the world witness fresh outbreaks of Covid-19 infections, vaccination remains the most common pandemic management approach. Kruxd looks at the numbers behind the global disparity in the availability of COVID vaccinations.

Fifteen months since the first-ever shot of the COVID vaccine was administered, about 58 per cent of the world’s population is fully vaccinated. However, this number hides the disparity in the level of vaccination in different regions of the world.

The great divide

As the race to vaccinate people against COVID-19 continues, many countries have administered doses to a large proportion of their population.  However, much of this progress is concentrated in the world’s wealthiest countries, leaving others behind. 

Data compiled from different government sources shows that in high-income countries, around 74 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. On the other hand, low and lower-middle-income countries have low vaccination coverage. In low-income countries, just 11.25 per cent of people have been fully vaccinated. Nigeria, Yemen and the Democratic Republic of Congo have the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with less than 5 per cent of the population receiving both doses.

The booster inequity

The booster doses were rolled out in response to rising concerns about decreasing immunity, and as a precaution for at-risk populations. The majority of the countries administering them, again, fall into the high-income or upper-middle-income category – with 44.88 per cent and 36.33 per cent of the population receiving booster doses respectively.

Meanwhile, booster doses have been administered to barely 0.5 per cent of the population in low-income countries. In countries like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, a booster immunization programme is yet to be implemented.

Where do we go from here?

Vaccine inequity and low vaccination coverage in the low and lower-middle-income countries has been a subject of global concern, risking prolonging the pandemic, as well as suppressing the economic recovery of these countries. For lower-income countries, which would otherwise be unable to afford these vaccines, as well as a number of higher-income countries with no bilateral deals with manufacturers, WHO’s COVAX initiative remains the most feasible way to access COVID-19 vaccines.

The US and the European Union have donated the highest number of vaccine doses to the COVAX facility. This helps 92 lower-income countries to meet their vaccine requirements. However, a large proportion of committed doses have yet to be handed over, and a significant proportion remains with COVAX, undelivered to the target countries.

Distribution of vaccination doses between countries remains a challenge. There are regional and national regulations, as well as extreme cold chains that need to be maintained for the distribution and storage of each vaccine. Initiatives like COVAX attempt to engage with all manufacturers and countries to enhance the availability and uptake of vaccines, depending entirely on the world’s efforts towards equity in pandemic management and vaccine rollouts.

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