A quarter of all global infections happened in the US which is home to only 4.25% of the global population
Rabat – Since its emergence in November 2019, COVID-19 has now infected more than 100 million people worldwide, killing 2.2 million. John Hopkins University data show that the virus has now infected 100,348,783 people, with the WHO’s more conservative count standing at 99,363,697.
The Americas and Europe have bore the brunt of the pandemic, with more than 75% of all cases recorded. All large European nations have recorded more than 50,000 COVID-19 related deaths each.
The US’ healthcare system and government response has fared the worst globally, recording almost 25 million COVID-19 cases and 416,004 deaths despite spending the most on healthcare per-capita.
Africa and the Western Pacific have benefited from lower mobility and younger populations to record less than 4% of global cases. The entire African continent, home to 1.2 billion people, has so far recorded fewer than 60,000 deaths, less than the death toll witnessed in countries like Britain or France.
Believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the virus dominated almost every facet of life throughout 2020. The emergence of several vaccine candidates has sparked hope that 2021 would bring a conclusion to COVID-19’s global spread. Yet, uneven distribution of the vaccines as well as economic and political factors appear to be delaying a swift resolution to the health crisis caused by COVID-19.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the WHO, today addressed the pandemic’s evolution and remaining obstacles in remarks to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). “This pandemic has tested us like never before,” he stated, adding that “now, even as we have developed vaccines in record time, it is testing us again.”
Fair and equitable distribution
The WHO chief is currently pushing for the fair and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, saying that “Vaccine equity is not just a moral imperative; ending this pandemic depends upon it.”
The distribution of vaccines has been a hot topic as countries around the world roll out their national vaccination campaigns. European leaders have publicly admonished vaccine manufacturers Pfizer and Astrazeneca for failing to deliver on their delivery commitments.
For leaders across the world, it is a political imperative to make deals to ensure their countries receive the required quantity of vaccines. The result, however, has been a global race for COVID-19 vaccines that could leave poor, low-income countries out of the picture.
The Middle-East has been a particular example of such practices.
While wealthy nations such as Israel and the UAE are leading the world with their rapid vaccination drives, other countries in the region are left scrambling. The region’s wealthiest countries have all begun vaccinating citizens while poorer countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen are yet to receive a single dose of the COVID-19 vaccines.
WHO pushes for vaccine equity
The World Economic Forum’s Arnaud Bernaert stated that the world should not be “naive” about the inequalities that COVID-19 vaccine distribution has again laid bare. He considers the inequality between nations in the Middle East as an example of a global problem.
The WHO continues to push for its COVAX program that aims to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to countries that are unable to compete in the global scramble for vaccine doses.
“Some countries and companies are making bilateral deals, going around COVAX, driving up prices and attempting to jump to the front of the queue,“ The WHO’s Dr Tedros stated earlier today.
He told the council of Europe’s parliamentary group that “it is not right that younger, healthier adults in rich countries are vaccinated before health workers and older people in poorer countries, I hope you will understand this.”
Dr Tedros warned that “a me-first approach leaves the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people at risk,” calling such endeavors “self-defeating” and a path toward “prolonging the pandemic.”
He highlighted a new study by the International Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation. The study predicted that the emerging trend of COVID-19 “vaccine nationalism” could cost the global economy $9.2 trillion. The WHO chief did not mince his words, urging that lives depend on a fair vaccine distribution.
Dr Tedros called on the global community to now ensure that “vaccination of health workers and older people is underway in all countries within the first 100 days of this year.” The ambitious target means there are 74 days left to reach this goal. “Time is short, and the stakes could not be higher,” Tedros concluded.