Sunday, February 21, 2021

Long battle ahead as global vaccine jabs dwarfed by 5 million new cases each week

Infections are still winning, and only a handful of countries have vaccinated at least 5% of their population so far.

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Only five countries which have started their Covid-19 vaccination drive have achieved an innoculation rate of more than 5% of their citizens so far, according to data released by global research group Our World in Data.

This shows that the aim of achieving herd immunity for the deadly pandemic is still lagging behind with daily global infection rates now at about five million people.

Data gathered from 51 countries showed 17 million people have been inoculated over the previous week, with Israel and the United Arab Emirates, each with populations of around nine million, leading globally.

“It has been described as a race between infections and injections,” financial magazine The Economist said. “If so, infections are still winning.”

“Plenty will happen in the months before most countries create enough immunity to suppress the spread of the virus,” it added.

“In the interim, much will depend on how successfully their governments manage lockdowns.”

Malaysia is among the countries still awaiting the arrival of the first batch of vaccines, as it battles a fierce spike that saw daily infections passing the 4,000 mark several times this month.

Health authorities will soon open registration for the voluntary immunisation drive, targeting 70% herd immunity involving 23 million Malaysians.

Malaysia has ordered 25 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, half of which will arrive in late February.

But the sharp increase in daily cases forced the government to announce stricter lockdowns under the movement control order.

The Economist said lockdowns, apart from face masks and other non-medical interventions, would be central to preventing the spread of Covid-19 until enough people have been vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.

But with billions around the world still waiting to get the jab, it will take a while for the full effects of the vaccines to kick in.

There is also the added complication of extra-contagious variants of the virus which have emerged in countries like the UK and South Africa.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said the UK coronavirus strain, known as B117, had been detected in at least 60 countries, a jump of 10 countries from the week before.

WHO estimates that the UK strain, first detected in mid-December, is between 50% and 70% more infectious than the original.

The South African strain, which is also thought to be more infectious than the original virus, has been reported in 23 countries and territories.

While more transmissible, the two variants are not thought to be more deadly.

But despite the arrival of a variety of vaccines on the scene, many countries have been struggling to get their inoculation programmes off the ground.

The delay is partly due to logistics issues including delivery shortfalls of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine.

Anti-vaxxer sentiments and vaccine hesitancy have also played a role, particularly in countries like France.

In Malaysia, a recent government poll of more than 200,000 people revealed that 67% would agree to be vaccinated against Covid-19, believing in its effectiveness.

Another 17% are unsure, while 16% would refuse to take the vaccine.

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