As the world crossed a grim milestone of four million deaths due to Covid-19, it is time to realise that no country is considered totally safe till the issue of vaccine inequality is addressed through international cooperation. The death count is showing a clear declining trend in the countries with relatively better vaccination coverage. The United States and European countries that have the best access to vaccines are seeing much fewer fatalities now, despite a rise in the number of cases. In India, the vaccination pace has not reached the required level though there has been a considerable improvement in terms of numbers. The per million fatalities are close to 300 in India while the US has seen over 1,800 deaths per million population. Brazil and Colombia have more than 2,000 deaths per million. Peru has now emerged as the country with the highest number of deaths per million population — nearly 6,000 against the world average of about 51. With over six lakh deaths so far, the US has the highest number of Covid-19 fatalities, followed by Brazil with over 5 lakh and India which recently crossed 4 lakh. The once-in-a-century public health crisis calls for extraordinary efforts and cooperation on a global scale. In the recently concluded G-7 meeting, the leaders of the wealthiest democracies pledged to deliver one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses over the course of the next year and continue efforts to strengthen future health resilience.
At a time when the pandemic has widened global health inequity, a firm commitment from leading democracies to global cooperation and joint expanded efforts is a critical first step. Collecting real-time data, investing in testing technologies, laboratories, and scientific expertise, including genome sequencing, could enable nations to anticipate future Covid waves. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the world would need 11 billion doses, equitably distributed among all countries, to reach 70% of vaccine coverage, and herd immunity. The poor countries, which account for 80% of the global population, would remain at risk of deadly Covid-19 waves, and the whole world will be vulnerable to new aggressive variants in the absence of funding for speedier distribution, patent waivers and a non-profit model extended to all western vaccine makers. One reason for this imbalance is that wealthier countries have been able to place substantial advance orders with the vaccine makers, most of them are based in richer countries. The situation is particularly grim because of the rapidly spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus against which the existing vaccines are less effective. Unless manufacturing and supply can be distributed more evenly, researchers forecast that it will be at least another two years before a significant proportion of people in the lowest-income countries are vaccinated.
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