High-income nations have begun vaccinations

Published January 12, 2021, 12:15 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Forty-two countries have started their COVID-19 vaccination programs, the World Health Organization (WHO) disclosed this weekend. The 42 are 36 high-income nations and six-middle-income ones.

The United Kingdom (UK) was the first to begin its vaccination program, with the Pfizer vaccine it was able to acquire from its United States (US) manufacturer as soon as this vaccine won the approval of both UK and US drug agencies. The UK then boosted its vaccine supply with its own AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine and a second US vaccine Moderna.

The European Union announced it now has ”more than enough for the entire population of Europe, as it doubled its supply with a further 300 million doses from Pfizer. The United States has now begun its mass vaccination program, having earlier advanced billions of dollars for Pfizer and Moderna even when these were still under development.

The World Health Organization has now noted that there is a growing disparity among the nations with regards to the supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Fifty percent of the world’s high-income countries are now vaccinating, while zero percent of low-income countries are vaccinating, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus urged the wealthier countries to free up the excess doses they have contracted. He made his appeal in particular for the WHO’s Covax program which intends to help the world’s low-income countries.

The Philippines is among the low-income countries that will have to wait months before they can have a share of the vaccines now being mass-produced in several countries. The earliest we can expect to receive the vaccines we have contracted to purchase is in May.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 virus appears to be spreading wildly in more countries, including the UK which reported new highs of 68,053 cases and 1,325 deaths in just 24 hours. Romania became the latest country to report a case of the new COVID variant which was first reported in UK and South Africa. Australia locked down its third largest city Brisbane after officials found a case of the new UK strain.

Ten months after the Philippines imposed its first COViD-19 restrictions last March, the restrictions remain, although at a very much lower level. We have been able to keep our COVID-19 cases down with our health protocols but we are among the many poor countries which, WHO has noted, can start vaccinating their people only much later this year.