Vaccine inequality – or poorer countries’ lack of access to Covid vaccines – is tragic in light of the growing Omicron threat, IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath told NDTV today as she clarified the marked difference in vaccination rates between the two and the effect. this could have on the world.
“Vaccine inequality is tragic. At the end of 2021, we are with high-income countries that have vaccinated 70 percent of their population and countries with lower incomes below four percent. The goal was to vaccinate 40 percent of the population in each country by the end of “This year … 80 countries will not meet that mark. For the vast majority it is because they do not have enough doses,” she said.
“For example, COVAX contracts with manufacturers … only 18 percent of doses have been delivered. They have not prioritized deliveries. Dose donations promised by high-income countries were 1.5 billion … only 300 million have been delivered so far,” said Gopinath to NDTV.
Ms Gopinath stressed the need for both manufacturers and developed countries – especially those who had promised vaccine doses to less fortunate nations – to prioritize these deliveries.
“There is also a huge demand for booster doses (driven by fears of Omicron’s vaccine evasion mutations) … worried that this could (again affect) supplies to low-income countries,” she said, urging developed countries to refrain. from restricting exports of vaccines and medical devices.
Booster doses have been widely encouraged by experts, and governments in many developed nations have offered this to their citizens, raising concerns about more dose accumulation at the expense of those in poorer countries who have not yet received a single dose.
Boosters have not yet been announced by the Indian government, although it has told the Delhi High Court that it is studying the issue. The Serum Institute has offered its stock of Covishield doses for this purpose, but the government has not yet accepted.
The call for speeding up vaccine sharing comes as the Omicron variant – as early studies suggest, infects destructively 70 times faster than the delta, and which is generally thought to be more resistant to current vaccines – threatens to derail the global economy for the time being. recovery.
Ms Gopinath said that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) was following developments on the Omicron front closely, but that she had not yet decided how big its impact would be on the world.
“What we do know is that cases are rising fast … it seems to be much more contagious than Delta. It may be less serious, but if the number (of infected) is so large, it could overwhelm the hospital system. We already sees reactions in the form of restrictions on travel and mobility, which of course has consequences for the economy, she says.
The recovery of the global economy has been threatened by the renewal of restrictions by several countries – including India and more developed nations – due to fears of the Omicron variant.
The Financial Times said this week that these rules had triggered a drop in transatlantic travel. Earlier this month, tour operators from India told NDTV about an estimated 20 percent cancellations.
The COVAX program is a global vaccine sharing initiative launched by the UN and its partners, which aims to provide doses to over 90 middle- and low-income countries.
These include several countries in Asia and a significant number of African and oceanic nations whose governments would otherwise not be able to purchase the required number of doses to contain the virus and allow both its and the world’s economy to recover.
The omicron variant – which is thought to have 50 mutations, more than 30 of which are on the nail protein that is the target of current vaccines – was first discovered in South Africa last month.
Although South Africa is currently not on the list of countries receiving COVID-19 vaccine doses under the COVAX scheme, neighboring countries such as Eswatini and Tanzania, which have reported Omicron cases and from where people travel to India, are on the list.
India has reported over 60 Omicron cases so far since they confirmed its first two cases on 2 December.