Covid-19 Vaccine: Booster Dose is Not at Cost of Poor Countries | Data Crunched

·6-min read

Availability of Covid vaccines is the latest burning example of the gap between rich and poor countries. Rich countries, mostly in North America and Europe and major emerging world powers like China and India have progressed well with Covid vaccination while the countries at the bottom of economical pyramid are still languishing to find a way out.

Africa, world's second largest and most populous continent after Asia, has virtually seen no progression on the vaccination front. Data from statistical website 'Our World in Data' says, in April, the population base of the continent vaccinated with at least one dose of the vaccine was below 1%. It increased just to around 3.75% in June while the corresponding data on June 19 was just 6.52% for vaccinations done till Thursday.

38% IN REST OF ASIA

Asia, the largest continent with a population base of 4.64 billion though has administered 3.17 billon of doses, it is largely due to the Covid vaccinations done in China and India only. As per 'Our World in Data' figures, China has administered 1.9 billion doses of the vaccine. India, on the other hand, as per Health Ministry figures, has administered 572.28 million vaccine doses so far. The combine population of China and India are 2.8 billion. So, for rest of the Asia, with 1.84 billion people, the pace of vaccination, with the base of population getting at least 1 dose of the vaccine, is around 38% only.

WHY IT IS SLOW IN OCEANIA COUNTRIES?

Naturally money is no problems for countries like Austrian and New Zealand but it is due to the miscalculated steps of their governments. While Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison has said sorry for it promising to scale up vaccination from August with Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern is also witnessing her popularity going down due to slow pace of vaccination.

In South America, 73% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine. The rate of vaccination is very high in North America, Europe, European Union countries and China. These countries have fully vaccinated more than 50% of their population.

Now many countries across the world has decided that they will vaccinate their fully vaccinated with another booster shot with studies showing that with time, protection level given by vaccines comes down.

BUT WHO OPPOSES THIS BOOSTER SHOT MOVE

Quoting the huge vaccination gap between rich and poor countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned against the booster shot when millions in poorer countries are not able to get even the first vaccine shot. Also, WHO has said that there is not enough scientific evidence for an additional booster Covid vaccine shot. Mike Ryan, the director of the WHO's health emergency programme, in fact, calls the steps taken by rich countries as immoral.

BUT US SAYS THERE IS EVIDENCE

US has decided to offer the third dose from September 20. Fully vaccinated individuals will get an additional booster shot after 8 months of getting fully vaccinated. Based on the latest findings that the protection given by the vaccine starts to fall after some time, US now says that the booster shot is required to contain the surge of Covid cases due to Delta variant.

Science has proven that Delta variant is more contagious and more resistant to Covid vaccines that other coronavirus variants. INSACOG, a genome sequencing government consortium of laboratories in India corroborates it. As per INSACOG analysis, Delta variant reduces vaccine effectiveness to block virus transmission.

Delta variant, first identified in India, has now spread to 118 countries. After ravaging India, it has become a dominant strain in US, Europe and pushing Covid numbers up in China and South Korea.

Statement by FDA, CDC and other US health experts says, "Based on our latest assessment, the current protection against severe disease, hospitalization, and death could diminish in the months ahead, especially among those who are at higher risk or were vaccinated during the earlier phases of the vaccination rollout."

The White House press briefing supported its statement with data. A study done in New York showed vaccines to be 92% effective in May. It reduced to 80% July. Another study analyzing the Mayo Clinic data found that effectiveness of Pfizer vaccine reduced from 76% to 42% and Moderna vaccines from 86% to 76% in a given period of time. The press briefing also quoted another data from weekly COVID-19 case counts. As per this dataset, vaccine that was 75% effective in March, was reduced to have just 53% efficacy in August.

Israel, Russia, Indonesia, UAE and Hungary have already started administering booster shots. Germany will start inoculating people with booster shots from September amid surge of cases due to Delta variant while Britain, Brazil, Sweden, Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Canada have also given a go-ahead. France, Italy, Spain and Thailand are also planning to offer booster shots to selected population groups.

Indian government is also studying the matter on the possibility of an additional booster shot. Dr Priya Abraham, director of National Institute of Virology, has in fact said that the country definitely needs the booster dose. AIIMS director Randeep Guleria has also said that booster doses may be needed in future due to different emerging variants of coronavirus.

India's disastrous 2nd Covid wave in April and May was Delta variant driven only and the country is warned to be hit by the 3rd wave soon, again drive by Delta variant only. As per INSACOG analysis, continuing Covid outbreaks across India are attributable to Delta variant.

April saw the disastrous second Covid wave with 45,882 Covid fatalities. India that month crossed the 200,000 mark of reported deaths from Covid. The country also reported over 66 lakh Covid cases as the cumulative total rose to around 1.9 crore.

In May, from 80,000 cases on April 1, India hit the highest-ever single-day global record of 4.14 lakh new Covid-19 cases on May 6. The active caseload burden went over 37 lakh cases, combined with a sharp decline in recovery rate from more than 97% to less than 80%. The death rate was consistently high in the range of 3,000-4,000 fatalities on many days. It crossed the highest-ever figure of 6,148 deaths on June 9, while the whole month saw 120,770 Covid fatalities.

SO BOOSTER DOSE IS NOT AT COST OF POOR COUNTRIES BUT A SURVIVAL STEP

It is a requirement to survive, to fight the pandemic that has changed the face the world with over 210 million cases and over 44 lakh deaths.

US has committed that it is going to release 600 million vaccine doses to needy countries. India, the largest supplier under the GAVI initiative to supply Covid vaccines to needy and poor countries was forced to stop exporting vaccines in April after the disastrous 2nd Covid wave but has assured to resume it once the domestic concerns are met. The country is expected to get significantly increased supply of 'Make in India' vaccines from September-October onwards. By April, India had exported 66.3 million Covid vaccines.

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