COVID-19 Vaccination in Qatar
Located on the waters of the Persian Gulf, Qatar has an estimated COVID-19 vaccination rate of about 87%, administering more than 4.9 million doses to its people. It is a population percentage much higher than a number of other countries, including the United States, where just 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated.

Statistics

Qatar has fewer than 2.5 million inhabitants, more comparable to U.S. states like New Mexico or Kansas. Additionally, it seems that a higher vaccination rate has made a difference when it comes to the Middle Eastern country’s efforts to fight COVID-19. Cases are currently at around 8% of what Qatar had during its time of peak infections, dating back to May 2020 when there were a reported 2,300 new infections each day.

According to Qatar’s government communications office, the country has reported some 150 new coronavirus cases by late November 2021, with more than 100 of those afflicted ultimately recovering. Since the start of the pandemic, Qatar has reported a total of 242,000 cases, with 239,000 recoveries and 611 deaths.

Qatar’s infection rate has climbed a bit in recent weeks. Additionally, while the country’s efforts are better than some of its neighbors, like Yemen — which had climbed to 11% of its peak before dropping again — Qatar is behind others, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, which reported between 1% and 2% of their respective peaks.

Bahrain, for example, averages a little more than 20 new infections per day in a recent week, with 87% of the country completely vaccinated. Saudi Arabia has more than 35 new infections each day with 69% fully vaccinated. Oman is averaging about seven new infections daily with a 59% vaccination rate.

The UAE reported just fewer than 80 new infections each day with a vaccination rate of more than 100%. Yet, Yemen has kept its numbers mostly under control — reporting a half-dozen new infections each day despite just a little more than 1% of its population being fully vaccinated.

Precautions

The U.S. has shared with those living or visiting Qatar the precautions the country has implemented since July 2020 to help limit the spread of the coronavirus there. That includes a little bit of technology — a smartphone app called Ehteraz used for contact tracing.

The country also limits the number of people allowed in cars, and how far athletes can travel to participate in sports. Of course, there are requirements for face masks and social distancing. Anyone not abiding by these rules faces stiff fines and potential jail time.

Qatar is currently in what it describes as its fourth phase of reopening, allowing some gatherings and small groups, and the elimination of masks in open public places, except where otherwise required — like in organized public events, schools and mosques.

Currently, the State Department has a travel heath advisory of Level 3 due to the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. It advises anyone entering the country to be fully vaccinated.

Vaccine Distribution

Despite what appears to be high COVID-19 vaccination rates in Qatar, a study published in the National Library of Medicine in May 2021 suggests about 20% of the country’s population does not want the coronavirus vaccine. Surveys occurred in November 2020, before vaccines had received government approvals in many countries, including the United States, and when people were still building knowledge about the safety of the vaccine. The survey involved more than 7,800 adults.

Since then, Qatar has approved the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use and is available to everyone for free. However, the Qatari government recommends those at higher risk — such as the elderly, those with chronic medical conditions, as well as health care workers — are first in line.

COVID-19’s Impact on Qatar’s Economy and People

The effects of COVID-19 have, for obvious reasons, reduced worldwide travel. This has led to OPEC reporting its lowest demand for oil in 30 years. The heaviest impacted sectors of Qatari society include manufacturing, real estate and transportation. Finance and construction also have experienced a moderate impact on Qatar’s expected gross domestic product, according to KPMG International.

How Qatar is Doing its Part

During the Global Vaccine Summit in June 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic was at its worst, Qatar pledged the equivalent of $20 million in U.S. currency to GAVI. GAVI is an international vaccine organization that intends to help underserved countries in the world through the global COVAX initiative.

The money Qatar donated was double its earlier pledge of $10 million that lasted from 2016-2020. The money from 2016-2020 went directly to GAVI with no funding for COVAX. GAVI will distribute the money evenly with $10 million going to funding GAVI’s core programs from 2021-2025 and the other $10 million will help finance the COVAX AMC initiative10.

COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar is at remarkably high levels. The vaccine and other measures still in place in the country have dramatically reduced the number of active and new coronavirus cases in the country to a fraction of their peaks in the summer of 2020.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19's Impact on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a nation in recovery. As with many countries throughout the globe, COVID-19 has left a lasting mark on the West African nation. In a June to October 2020 survey that Innovations for Poverty Action in Sierra Leone implemented, nearly 50% of respondents reported income reductions and about 60% of respondents reported depleting their savings to secure food for the household. However, in the wake of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, some sectors are regaining strength.

The After-Effects of COVID-19

Sierra Leone went into lockdown quickly in response to the initial outbreak of the novel coronavirus within its borders in March 2020, declaring a state of emergency prior to any confirmation of infection. Rapid policy changes followed, restricting travel and putting into place extensive testing programs which, coupled with a high level of social compliance, brought the infection and death rates to an early plateau. This impressive effort in containment came at a great economic cost, however, with the nation’s GDP contracting around 3.1% in 2020.

Revitalizing the Economy

Forecasts predict that Sierra Leone’s GDP will grow roughly 4% by the end of 2021, eclipsing the contraction of 2020, with further acceleration predictions in 2022. This projected growth links to a renewed demand for exports, particularly in the country’s mining sector.

World Bank experts state that sustaining this growth will require structural reform, strong monetary policy and a robust vaccination program, allowing businesses and employees alike to return to full-capacity operations both quickly and safely.

To that end, “the World Bank approved an $8.5 million grant” in June 2021 to further vaccination efforts in Sierra Leone, building upon an earlier $7.5 million monetary injection provided by the International Development Association in 2020 to shore up economic deficits resulting from COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone. Additionally, The Sierra Leone Central Bank announced a redenomination of the national currency in an effort to combat inflation. However, not all efforts for economic regrowth fall within the confines of the financial sector.

US Assistance

Sierra Leone saw a marked increase in poverty as a result of wage depression and job loss stemming from the pandemic, particularly in urban areas. The remediation of economic damages in these areas is an important step in breathing new life into the Sierra Leonean economy.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government-funded agency dedicating efforts to international growth and development, is working to do just that. The MCC completed a $44.4 million project “to improve the water and electrical services in and around Freetown,” Sierra Leone’s capital and largest urban center, in March 2021. The MCC has recently begun talks with government representatives and the private sector to make further, larger investments in the nation’s growth in the form of an economic compact.

Further Help for Citizens in Need

In August 2021, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced a new program specifically focusing on aiding women and youth affected by COVID’s impact on Sierra Leone. The program will provide grants of $60,000 to $140,000 for distribution by NGOs to women and youth-operated businesses in both rural and urban areas that were forced to scale down or cease operations during the pandemic. The aim is to bring these businesses back into the marketplace and stimulate the local economy. These efforts work in concert with Sierra Leone’s internal efforts to help the nation get back onto its feet in the post-pandemic environment.

Mining Sector Leads Growth

With a return to pre-pandemic GDP levels in sight, Sierra Leone hopes to continue growth in 2022. Forecasts predict the nation’s GDP to grow by as much as 5% by 2022, outpacing its sub-Saharan neighbors, which could grow to 1% to 2% less over the same period. The country’s mining sector is a strong driver of the national economy accounting for 3% of national employment in 2018 as well as “65% of export earnings.” The mining sector is on track for a 34% overall increase, led by a predicted 850% increase in demand for iron ore over 2020.

With such a major market component leading the way, other economic areas may expect revitalization as well. In the agricultural sector, employing about two-thirds of Sierra Leone’s workforce, the government encourages mining companies’ investment in communities local to their operations, furthering citizens’ access to food as well as gainful employment. Predictions estimate that the domestic construction and energy industries, both with close links to mining infrastructure, may see growth as well. This combined push for economic renewal assures better days to come for the sub-Saharan nation.

A Bright Future Ahead

Through ongoing foreign support and careful economic measures, Sierra Leone hopes to breathe new life into industries ravaged by COVID-19. With a renewed encouragement of domestic business, the nation looks to bring its citizens forward into a thriving economy and a safer, healthier society. The culmination of these efforts is proving clear less than two years after the nation’s first lockdown with a strong reemergence from the trials of COVID-19’s impact on Sierra Leone, promising a brighter tomorrow for the Sierra Leonean people.

– Alexander Diaz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

taiwans-vaccine-rollout-what-you-need-to-know
Many consider Taiwan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic to be a success story. Even with a population of 23 million and proximity to China, the island nation managed to avoid aggressive lockdowns and to date has reported only 846 deaths. The success of Taiwan is due in large part to the government’s immediate and effective response that in turn demonstrated a sense of seriousness in the public’s response to mask mandates and contact tracing protocols. Additionally, Taiwan’s vaccine rollout is well on its way in order to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

A Successful Approach

After the first confirmed case on January 21, 2020, Taiwan implemented a contact tracing program that tracks the travel and contact history of each patient. Using strict quarantine procedures for travelers coming into the country, health officials can rapidly identify and separate the at-risk and infectious individuals.

To ensure its citizens have easy access to personal protective equipment (PPE), the Taiwanese government increased the production of surgical-grade masks by 850% and shipped them to stores nationwide at a low cost. Taiwan also benefited from its public health campaign that informed the public twice a day of changes to travel and quarantine policies, along with healthcare response efforts and other relevant information.

Vaccination Rates At a Glance

As of September 8, 2021, 45.2% of Taiwan’s population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 4.3% have received both doses. Data indicates that vaccines administered per 100 people from July 5 to August 12, 2021, remained above 0.4%.

The number of vaccine doses administered continues to climb as Taiwan’s vaccine rollout widens. Similar to their pandemic response, the Taiwanese government has taken several steps to assure its citizens have access to the vaccine.

Homegrown Fight

On Monday, August 23, 2021, Taiwan kick-started its vaccine rollout for the domestically developed coronavirus vaccine after President Tsai Ing-wen received her first dose. The Medigen Vaccine Biologics Corp developed the vaccine, which received emergency approval on July 19, 2021.

Phase 2 clinical trials showed no major safety concerns and produce 3.4 times the level of antibodies compared to the AstraZeneca vaccine. Phase 3 trials had received confirmation to begin by July 2021, in hopes of having the vaccine receive international recognition.

To date, Taiwan’s government has purchased 5 million doses of the Medigen vaccine, with large numbers of younger Taiwanese citizens and foreigners signing up for vaccination.

International Help

Taiwan has not been alone in its effort to vaccinate its population. International allies like Japan and the U.S. have donated roughly 5 million vaccines to date. Poland and Lithuania have also donated 400,000 and 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines respectfully.

The Taiwanese government has also signed contracts to purchase 20 million vaccines including 5.05 million doses from Moderna, 10 million of AstraZeneca and 4.76 million doses through the COVAX initiative. As a result of Taiwan’s effective pandemic response and vaccine rollout, life in Taiwan has been able to maintain some normalcy. Not surprisingly, many hail Taiwan’s response as a pandemic success story.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr