Inflammation and stories on vaccines

COVID-19 Vaccinations in SerbiaSerbia, a country located in Europe, has seen success when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine statistics, approvals and productions. The Serbian government is providing incentives to encourage citizens to get vaccinated with the aim of increasing vaccination rates. The rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia indicates a positive upturn in Serbia’s fight against the virus.

Vaccine Statistics in Serbia

Serbia’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign has been successful so far as more than 38% of Serbians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 5, 2021. So far, the government has administered more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia. According to the latest COVID-19 statistics from Reuters, Serbia is experiencing roughly 114 new daily infections, equating to 11 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people tested. During the last officially reported week, Serbia reached a daily average of more than 10,000 administered COVID-19 vaccinations.

Pfizer Vaccine Approval for Children

Serbia’s medical agency now allows children between the ages of 12 and 15 to receive the Pfizer vaccine. The Medicines and Medical Devices Agency of Serbia approved this after carefully considering the research of many clinical trials conducted in other nations. Serbian government health official, Mirsad Djerlek, says children with underlying health conditions are a priority as they are more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19.

Vaccine Incentives

Serbia’s initial intention was to have half of the population vaccinated by the end of June 2021. Data indicates that Serbia did not reach this goal, but nevertheless, Serbia is still reaching a significant number of people with its vaccination campaign.

To encourage citizens to get vaccinated, President Aleksandar Vucic promised that citizens who got vaccinated before the end of May 2021 would receive a cash incentive of $30. Vucic’s expectation was to have three million people vaccinated by the end of May 2021. Serbia has made vaccination sites more accessible with locations in shopping malls. To further boost vaccination rates, Serbia announced that it would also be offering vouchers to those who get vaccinated.

Partnering with Russia

Serbia has partnered with Russia to ramp up Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine manufacturing. In June 2021, Serbia’s Institute of Virology, Vaccines and Sera “Torlak” in Belgrade began production. President Vucic and Russian President Vladimir Putin came to this agreement while acknowledging the importance of collaborative efforts in fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccine Successes

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations in Serbia, the country has seen success so far. Serbia is getting close to vaccinating half of its population. More categories of the population are now eligible for the Pfizer vaccine and Serbians are receiving incentives to encourage vaccinations. Serbia is also giving a helping hand to other countries by providing vaccine donations to several countries. In May 2021, Serbia donated 100,000 vaccines to the Czech Republic, among other donations. As a production site for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Serbia is certainly playing a significant role in combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana
Ghana’s poverty rate has halved over the past 20 years, but COVID-19 stunted the country’s progress. Amid an economic crisis, many Ghanaian people have lost their jobs, healthcare and education due to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana is severe, especially for women and children.

Child Labor is on the Rise

Global child labor decreased by nearly 40% between 2000 and 2020, but COVID-19 forced many children into the workforce. Before the pandemic started, 160 million children participated in child labor. If countries cannot mitigate the economic impacts of COVID-19, around 168.9 million children could be in child labor by the end of 2022. Children in low-income countries like Ghana are particularly at risk of experiencing child labor. Between expansive school closures, increased unemployment and lost family members due to COVID-19, Ghanaian children have become more susceptible to child labor since the pandemic started.

Children and families often turn to child labor because it is the only option available to meet their basic needs. Ghanaian children as young as 8 years old work jobs in industries such as mining, carpentry, fishing and transporting goods to support themselves and their families. Most countries have developed economic relief packages to assist families who are struggling, but it can be challenging for low-income countries to afford adequate social protection programs. The World Bank found that low-income countries, on average, spend only about $6 per capita in response to the pandemic. Adequate social protection programs may be necessary to fully combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Educational Opportunities are Sparse

Many Ghanaian children have lost their educations since the pandemic started because of school closures or the need to drop out and support their families. At a shortage of proper funding, schools in Ghana struggle to afford food, technology for remote learning and resources for students with disabilities. Food insecurity has increased for students who formerly relied on their schools to provide meals every day. According to a recent study by Innovations for Poverty Action, 72% of Ghanaian children in public schools did not receive their usual daily lunches and 30% said they experienced hunger as a result of their schools closing. Without access to education, Ghanaian children are at risk of hunger and exploitation due to the vast impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

To combat malnutrition, UNICEF is providing children with micronutrient supplements, such as iron folate, to improve children’s health. The Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, which UNICEF helped the Ghana Health Service implement and develop, has reduced anemia in girls from the Northern and Volta Regions of Ghana by 26%. UNICEF is also helping Ghana attain educational resources and create school programs that are inclusive to students with disabilities.

Ghana’s Limited Healthcare

The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased access to healthcare in Ghana, particularly for pregnant women seeking antenatal care. According to UNICEF, many pregnant women did not receive any antenatal care during the pandemic, either because it was unavailable or because they feared contracting COVID-19 at a health facility. Additionally, many children who were supposed to get standard vaccinations when the pandemic broke out did not receive them due to a vaccine shortage and fears of catching COVID-19 at health facilities.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with Ghana to make healthcare more accessible, ensuring health facilities are safe and have the resources they need. As the first country to receive the COVAX vaccine in February 2021, Ghana has been on the road to recovery from COVID-19 for several months. The country also received 350,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May 2021. The Ghanaian government, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are collaborating to endorse and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which will help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana.

Unemployment and Wage Reductions Skyrocket

According to the World Bank, more than 770,000 Ghanaian workers experienced wage reductions between March and June 2020 because of the pandemic and 42,000 workers experienced layoffs. While some businesses received support from the government, others did not or were unaware that such resources were available. Many businesses had to close at the beginning of the pandemic, which led to long-term financial struggles. The World Bank is working with the Ghanaian government to help businesses overcome damage from the pandemic and gain resilience in preparation for other economic changes. The organization is focused on raising awareness about government support programs like the Coronavirus Alleviation Programme, which protects jobs and benefits small businesses. The World Bank is also working on creating long-term, educational solutions that prepare young people in Ghana to enter the workforce with adaptability, certifications and a wide range of skill sets.

Solutions in the Works

Many organizations are working alongside the Ghanaian government to combat the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ghana. Organizations like UNICEF and Human Rights Watch are actively working to provide Ghana’s impoverished people with the resources needed to survive, including food, water, healthcare and education. The COVID-19 vaccine offers hope that Ghana will recover from the pandemic, opening the door for improvements in healthcare, education and jobs.

Cleo Hudson
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in the MaldivesAs of June 29, 2021, the Maldives has reported more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19. The Maldives has a population of more than 515,000 with one of the country’s main sources of income stemming from tourism. The program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives is not only protecting citizens but is also playing a significant role in post-pandemic economic recovery.

The Maldives in Numbers

In 2009, The rate of people living on less than $5.50 a day in the Maldives was 42.7%. Just seven years later, the poverty rate dropped to 3.4%. In recent years, the Maldives has made many improvements, contributing to the stability of the country. This includes infrastructure improvements and investments in health and education. The country boasts a close to 100% literacy rate and a life year expectancy of more than 78 years.

Through these developments, the Maldives has attained the status of an upper-middle-income country. In terms of economic growth, the country significantly relies on tourism revenue. In 2019, the tourism industry accounted for 21% of the country’s gross domestic product as more than 1.7 million people vacationed to the Maldives.

The Impact of COVID-19

In March 2020, the Maldives began to experience the harsh economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry came to an abrupt halt and borders remained closed until mid-July 2020. Even as travel into the country re-opened, the Maldives reported only one-third of visiting tourists compared to the number of tourists visiting in 2019.

The decrease in tourism has contributed to the 28% decline in gross domestic product in 2020 and an increase in poverty to 7.2%. The pandemic has affected employees in the tourism industry more than any other industry in the Maldives. The JobCenter reports that within the tourism industry in the Maldives, only 74% of employees remained employed in 2020, with 30% on “no pay leave.”

With the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives, the country has the opportunity to protect its citizens and simultaneously bring its tourism rates back up.

The Maldives Vaccine Rollout

As of April 14, 2021, the Maldives has vaccinated 53% of its population with first doses. The country prioritized “90% of its frontline tourism workers” with a first dose. The vaccine is available at no cost to residents and migrant workers and is approved for anyone 16 or older. With the help of other countries and partnerships, the program for COVID-19 vaccination in the Maldives has seen success so far.

Factors that play an important role in this vaccine success include India’s donation of 100,000 Covishield vaccines on January 20, 2021. The Maldives has also purchased 700,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses straight from the manufacturer. The Maldives expects to receive vaccines from the COVAX facility as well. The country has also received vaccine supplies from Singapore.

Because of the small Maldivian population and the allocation of vaccines the Maldives is receiving from various allies and organizations, there are currently no supply shortage concerns. The United States has also committed to donating roughly seven million vaccines to Asia by the end of June 2021. The U.S. vaccine donation will be distributed to several Asian countries, including the Maldives.

Visit, Vaccinate and Vacation

COVID-19 vaccinations in the Maldives will soon be open to tourists. The Maldives hopes to enact a “3V” strategy, “visit, vaccinate and vacation.” This approach will begin only after the remaining unvaccinated residents of the Maldives receive both doses of the vaccine. Once the Maldives meets this goal, it will have the ability to vaccinate tourists upon entry.

Leaders hope this initiative will help restore the hard-hit tourism industry and promote the health and safety of all people. Many tourists work remotely from the Maldives on so-called “workations.” The Maldives’ leaders believe the initiative will appeal to people desiring a holiday with the incentive of also getting access to COVID-19 vaccinations. Increased tourism will allow the employment rate to rise as demand in resorts, restaurants and shops expands with more visitors.

Tourism is steadily increasing throughout the country. With a creative solution, the Maldives aims to restore pre-pandemic tourism levels and the economy while prioritizing the health of citizens and travelers.

– Delaney Gilmore
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccination in UruguayAt the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay had some of the lowest infection rates in Latin America. On June 30, 2020, Bloomberg reported that while its bordering country Brazil had 1.34 million total cases, Uruguay had only 932 cases. Now, about a year later, COVID-19 vaccination rates in Uruguay are among the highest in Latin America, with more than four million doses received by citizens.

Impacts of COVID-19 in Uruguay

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uruguay’s unemployment rates have increased dramatically. In March 2020, more than 86,000 citizens applied for unemployment insurance. Before the pandemic, applications averaged 11,000 per month. A complete vaccination rollout is critical for Uruguay’s citizens to return to work.

Uruguay has already started to reopen businesses, but since only about half of the country has been vaccinated, infections are increasing. In order to avoid another shutdown of the country and another fall in employment, efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay need to receive continued support and funding.

Vaccine Success

On June 8, 2021, Uruguay released reports about the success of the Sinovac Biotech vaccine along with more information about the Pfizer vaccine. According to Reuters, Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% successful in preventing intensive hospitalization and death. Further, the vaccine reduced COVID-19 infections by 61%. The Pfizer vaccine was 94% effective in preventing intensive care hospitalization and death and 78% effective in reducing COVID-19 infections.

Increasing COVID-19 Cases in Uruguay

COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay has been very successful so far, with 52% of the population given at least one dose of either the Sinovac, Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines. Despite this success, Uruguay is also facing a crisis as COVID-19 infections skyrocket.

For several weeks in late May and early June 2021, Uruguay had one of the highest global COVID-19 related death rates per capita. In the last week of May 2021, the small nation of just 3.5 million residents recorded an average of 55 deaths per day. Many experts blame public health guidelines that have become increasingly lax as the pandemic continues. Not enough of the population is vaccinated to support the less restrictive public health measures and Uruguay is now rushing to further increase its vaccination rates.

Global Support

The United States is working with COVAX to improve the vaccine rollout around the world, which might help Uruguay. COVAX is led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, the World Health Organization, Gavi and UNICEF. Its goal is to vaccinate at least 20% of every participating country’s population by the end of 2021. NPR notes that it may not be able to meet this goal due to the global vaccine shortage. Wealthier countries that have already secured enough vaccines for their populations need to step in to help struggling countries with vaccine donations.

Supporting the Global Vaccine Rollout

According to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, there are many ways in which organizations can support the global vaccine rollout. First, it is important that there is a level of trust between citizens and the distributors of the vaccine. Many people are hesitant about vaccines because they do not necessarily trust the intentions of vaccine developers. With trustworthy messengers such as community leaders and trusted organizations working to combat vaccine hesitancy, people may be less reluctant to receive a vaccine.

Second, the delivery of vaccinations requires innovation. A major problem for those in rural and low-income areas is a lack of access. Many cannot travel far to receive a dose, therefore, investing in creative ways to deliver vaccines to remote locations is important. For example, implementing mobile vaccination sites.

Finally, supporting the training of local healthcare workers in contact tracing, COVID-19 education and vaccination means more people will be qualified to address the pandemic. Thus, COVID-19 vaccination in Uruguay can continue long after global organizations leave the area, ensuring efforts are sustainable. With private and public sector groups working together, combating the COVID-19 pandemic and improving global health is not a distant goal.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Greece's Refugee COVID-19 VaccinationAfter much delay, the Greek government has finally rolled out a concrete plan for vaccinating an estimated 60,000 migrants and refugees within its borders. Announced on June 3, 2021, Greece’s refugee COVID-19 vaccination campaign will use Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine to begin inoculating more than 11,000 asylum seekers on the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos.

Greece’s Refugee COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized the center-right government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for failing to make refugees a priority during the country’s vaccine rollout. Mitsotakis’s administration pledged to make refugees eligible for vaccines, but until this recent announcement, the national vaccination campaign had largely sidestepped Greece’s large migrant population.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and others have called the country’s “Greeks-first” policy discriminatory and misguided. Organizations argue that inhabitants of refugee camps are far more vulnerable to COVID-19 than the general population due to overcrowding, limited space and lack of access to proper sanitation facilities. Another point of argument is that stopping the spread of COVID-19 within these vulnerable populations can limit transmission in the rest of society, ultimately benefiting the whole country.

Refugees in Greece

The tension between refugee advocates and the Greek government began long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Greece is one of the most popular routes for migration into Europe from Asia, Africa and the Middle East. After crossing from Turkey, migrants often end up in Greece waiting for their asylum claims to process.

Resentment between Greek citizens and migrants has been steadily rising over the years and the Mitsotakis government has adopted an increasingly tough stance on illegal migration that has come under fire from human rights organizations.

Multiple groups have accused the government of illegally returning asylum seekers to Turkey or leaving them adrift at sea rather than processing them through official asylum channels. One particularly startling accusation claimed that “13 men, women and children currently residing in a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos were beaten, robbed and forced onto a life raft” by uniformed officials who claimed the group required COVID-19 testing. The Greek government has denied these allegations but humanitarian groups still stand strong in protecting the human rights of migrants and refugees.

Vaccination Challenges for Refugees

Mistrust could hamper Greece’s refugee vaccination campaign. According to officials, only about 15% of asylum seekers in Greece have expressed interest in receiving a vaccine, although the number may increase as the campaign gets underway. Across the globe, many refugees fear that registering with a government vaccination platform could lead to arrest, detention or even deportation. Others fall prey to misinformation or encounter language and digital access barriers.

However, the main reason for limited global refugee vaccinations so far is the dramatic difference in vaccine supply between wealthy and low-income nations. Wealthier countries account for 85% of the world’s administered vaccines yet “85% of the 26 million refugees in the world are hosted in developing countries.” A recent contributing factor to limited vaccine access relates to COVAX, the vaccine initiative providing COVID-19 vaccines to low-income nations. Due to supply issues, expectations determined that COVAX would distribute 190 million fewer doses than originally anticipated by the end of June 2021.

Reasons for Hope

Although the road to refugee vaccination in Greece has been bumpy, the newly announced campaign is still a positive first step toward providing the country’s vulnerable migrant population with access to COVID-19 vaccines. There are also signs from around the globe that refugees will soon be able to receive vaccines in far greater numbers.

As of May 2021, 54 countries have started vaccinating refugees and 150 countries have said either publicly or privately that they will include refugees in their vaccine campaigns. Jordan’s campaign, in particular, has had a strong start. The country was the first in the world to include refugees in its COVID-19 vaccination drive. By the end of May 2021, 30% of Jordan’s refugees had received at least one vaccine dose.

International health officials are optimistic that the vaccine inequality between upper and lower-income nations will soon decrease. In June 2021, the United States announced that it would be donating 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccines to “92 low- and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union” through COVAX. Recent positive efficacy results from the Novavax vaccine should boost global supply even further. Overall, hope is on the horizon as the world comes together in a collaborative effort toward combating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jackson Fitzsimmons
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 vaccinations in Malta
As of late May 2021, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations in Malta has allowed 70% of Malta’s adult population to receive at least one dose. The country’s decreasing COVID-19 cases and the success of the vaccine rollout offer hope to Maltese officials as they plan to reopen the country.

The Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccinations in Malta

Thanks to Malta’s increase in vaccinated citizens, hospitalizations have decreased by 95%. The country’s health minister, Chris Fearne, reported that 42% of adults are fully vaccinated. The country has administered Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca vaccines. On June 8, 2021, the country’s active COVID-19 cases dropped to just 70, with a report of only one new case. Malta is among the growing number of nations, such as Israel and Bhutan, that are reporting successful vaccine rollouts.

Malta’s Declaration of Herd Immunity

With the successful vaccine rollout, the Maltese government has declared herd immunity. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has voiced uncertainty about such declarations. Due to new COVID-19 variants, the proportion of the population requiring vaccination to achieve herd immunity is unknown. The new variants reduce the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine, meaning vaccinated people may still be at risk.

According to the Bloomberg vaccination tracker, the 42% of the Maltese population that is fully vaccinated does not include children 16 and younger. As a result, the total percentage of the population that is fully vaccinated is only 36.5%. Despite its small population of only about 500,000 people, the country has reported more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 400 COVID-related deaths.

Looking Ahead

Though COVID-19 cases are falling in Malta, the U.K. has announced that it will not lift its Malta travel ban. When the U.K. revised its “green list” of countries whose citizens will not have to follow quarantine requirements upon entry, Malta was still not part of the list. However, other countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands have eased restrictions on traveling to Malta.

Although the majority of Malta’s adult population has received vaccinations, the mask mandate will remain in place until July 1, 2021. After July 1, fully vaccinated people will no longer have to wear masks outdoors as long as COVID-19 cases stay relatively low.

As the country reopens and allows travelers to visit again, the Maltese government has set a new requirement for people entering the country: a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test. The government will also provide incentives to visitors, such as hotel and scuba diving vouchers, to promote tourism and boost the economy.

Maltese citizens will also need vaccine certificates in order to attend certain public gatherings. The certificates will act as proof for citizens who have received COVID-19 vaccinations in Malta. Fearne reports that as of June 10, 2021, Maltese people have downloaded more than 60,000 vaccine certificates.

The success of Malta’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout inspires hope for other countries. With more vaccine diplomacy and less vaccine nationalism, more countries can progress toward achieving herd immunity.

– Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in Bhutan
COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan began in March 2021. The long-term impact of COVID-19 remains limited to an economic slowdown from the country’s lockdowns. This is allowing the government to smoothly pivot to its long-term recovery goals.

Bhutan’s citizens are responsible for the global pandemic’s minimal impact on the Bhutanese population’s health. There was a consistently high amount of attention toward preparing response efforts. A high level of lower-income communities in Bhutan’s outskirts has expressed the country’s willingness to help its worst-off endure the crisis.

COVID-19 and Vaccinations in Bhutan

Reuters’ COVID-19 Tracker and its latest data from July 8, 2021 indicate that Bhutan’s infection rate stands at an average of 21 new cases each day. Broader statistics are a testament to successful containment efforts. The relatively small country’s 763,000 citizens boast a mere 2,249 infections and only one fatality. Meanwhile, vaccination rates trend at 92 doses per day. However, this is because the Bhutanese government already distributed its vaccine stockpile to an overwhelming majority of its citizens.

As a nation that uses the philosophy of “Gross National Happiness” as a guide, a ready amount of native volunteers answered the call to bring vaccines to those in need. Avoiding a national health crisis means enduring an economic slowdown. However, Bhutan’s most vulnerable citizens can expect a consistent level of support while recovery continues. A hallmark of this success is its sheer rapidity. For example, “…within two weeks, it had reached more than 90% of the adult population eligible for vaccination,” observed The Lancet in its retrospective on how COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan led to distributing the first of two doses.

Garnering Vaccines

Bhutan did not receive its total Covishield supply all at once. The first shipment of aid from India arrived in the form of 150,000 doses on January 20, 2021. Rather than delivering vaccinations in a staggered fashion as new doses arrived, the Ministry of Health selected March 27, 2021 to begin distribution due to the day’s astrological significance.

This decision left enough doses available to completely sidestep the issue of managing a chain of priority groups for the first wave of COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan. Combining this with a willingness to confront the challenges of shipping Covishield to rural areas resulted in poorer communities facing relatively insubstantial delays.

Participatory Spirit

While the practical hurdles of COVID-19 vaccination in Bhutan stem from its public servants’ sound preparation, the dearth of registrations is a credit to the government’s ability to mobilize its population. In this respect, further Ministry of Health action in the two months before March 27, 2021 encompassed a campaign to invigorate national spirit concerning the vaccine.

Aside from the publicity of choosing to begin distribution on an auspicious day, The Lancet reports on a series of regular broadcasts by Prime Minister Tshering to provide facts on the vaccine and ward off misinformation that could increase hesitancy to register. “It helps in making rational and well-informed decisions when you have in-depth knowledge of the subject yourself,” says Health Minister Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo on his government’s attention to keeping medical expertise at the center of its strategy.

Bouncing Back

Now that the immediate danger of an unvaccinated population has passed, the long-term benefits of resolving this crisis are apparent. Despite what the Bhutan Times characterizes as “challenging circumstances” over the course of 2020, it nonetheless describes progress toward achieving its development goals as “tremendous.”

A series of initiatives with the United Nations illustrates an optimistic attitude for the future as the economic climate slowly becomes more conducive to attracting young and newly enfranchised demographics to growing sectors of the economy. Plans are in development to a self-sufficient agricultural sector in line with 2030’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the pandemic’s economic impact doing little to slow Bhutan’s process of positive systemic change.

Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19’s Impact on ChinaAfter its first reporting in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019, COVID-19 spread quickly across the world. COVID-19’s impact on China was initially pronounced as the government struggled to contain the outbreak, suppressing whistleblowers and drawing criticism from the international community. But, Beijing’s ability to reverse its early failures has impressed analysts, showcasing the strength of China’s response system.

Strict Lockdowns

On January 23, 2020, Beijing imposed strict lockdown measures in Wuhan. For 76 days, the city remained in quarantine, and the lockdown eventually expanded to include large swaths of the country. Although some experts greeted these efforts with skepticism, the world eventually enacted similar lockdowns.

However, few lockdowns were able to match the aggressiveness of China. In the United States, lockdowns were met with skepticism and protest, allowing the virus to rage through the country unhindered. But, on the other side of the Pacific, COVID-19’s impact on China was effectively curtailed. Despite the virus originating from Wuhan, China recorded no official daily deaths for multiple months in 2020.

Yet, experts remained doubtful of China’s COVID-19 performance. The CIA questioned the validity of Chinese COVID-19 statistics, seeing the data as a vast undercount of the actual total. But, the issue of undercounting was widespread outside of China as well, presenting itself in countries all over the world. Despite discrepancies in the official counts, a general narrative had taken shape by the end of 2020 that China successfully contained COVID-19.

COVID-19’s Economic Impact

The COVID-19 lockdown slowed the virus around the world but created new issues. Businesses shuttered, and the economy contracted without consumer spending. As a result, the world found itself in the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression. China was hardly immune to these economic impacts. Output took a historic blow during the first few months of 2020, adding to Beijing’s larger concerns about its economic health. Despite its position as the world’s second-largest economy, China faces major obstacles to growth, from an aging population to ballooning levels of debt. COVID-19 lockdowns exacerbated these pressures, with the potential to curtail China’s decades of growth.

Positive Economic Growth in China

The speedy enactment of lockdowns allowed Beijing to repudiate its critics once again. While other great powers, including the United States, saw their economies contract, China was the “only major economy” in 2020 to register positive GDP growth. Far from leading to broader economic collapse, COVID-19’s impact on China appears to be a net positive geopolitically, accelerating the shift in power from the West to the East. China’s economy is now slated to be the world’s largest economy by the end of 2028, five years ahead of schedule.

China’s continued efforts to combat extreme poverty are notable. Before COVID-19, the government had laid out an ambitious pledge to completely eliminate extreme poverty, defined as $600 or less in yearly per capita income, by 2020. In 2019, decades of sustained economic growth led to less than 1% of Chinese people living in extreme poverty.

COVID-19 threatened to derail poverty reduction plans. But, instead of adversely impacting China’s stated objective, the rapid lockdowns engineered by Beijing allowed for a fast economic recovery and the completion of the original objective. By the end of 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping proudly reported that the country had officially eliminated extreme poverty.

COVID-19 Vaccination Efforts

China initially lagged in the area of COVID-19 vaccinations. Pharmaceutical companies in the United States pushed out highly effective COVID-19 vaccines in record-breaking time, quickly inoculating sizable swaths of the population. With this aggressive drive, a return to normal reopening seemed to be within reach.

China initially encountered struggles in vaccinating the population. Its early vaccination program was slow and vaccine hesitancy presented a barrier to inoculation. However, this changed recently as China’s state apparatus manufactured hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccinations for rapid distribution. Now, China is taking the lead in vaccinations as the U.S. lags behind. To date, China has administered more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses.

This does not mean that China is out of the woods though. The efficacy of Beijing’s vaccines compare poorly to other vaccines, and many nations that received Chinese vaccines have still seen COVID-19 cases skyrocket. Nonetheless, China’s vaccine efforts are certainly commendable.

As the only economy with positive economic growth in 2020, China’s efforts to curb COVID-19 have proven effective. Aside from its COVID-19 response, China’s efforts to combat poverty have also positively contributed to increased prosperity and stability within the nation.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in MongoliaEfforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia can be described in the oxymoron “small but mighty.” This tiny nation is typically overshadowed by its neighboring states, Russia and China. However, in the event of a pandemic, the position as a small country enclosed by the borders of the world’s two largest vaccine manufacturers can be extremely valuable. Mongolia has benefited greatly from its close ties with its neighbors, powerful forces determined to aid their partners through vaccine diplomacy. As a result of these vaccination efforts, Mongolia hopes to be free of COVID-19 sometime around the Mongolian summer of 2021.

Helpful Partnerships

Mongolia has a sufficient number of vaccines to properly ensure protection within the adult population, primarily due to its advantageous location between China and Russia. The relationship between Mongolia and China dates back to the 1940s when the countries signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance. As for Mongolia and Russia, both nations signed the Russo-Mongolian Agreement back in 1912, which gives both countries major commercial advantages. Through these foreign policy agreements, toward the end of April 2021, Mongolia had 1.5 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China and 20,000 doses of Sputnik-V vaccines from Russia.

Additionally, on March 24, 2020, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) committed $1.2 million to assist the Mongolian government in its COVID-19 response, according to the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia. USAID is committed to assisting efforts for COVID-19 vaccination in Mongolia by strengthening the country’s disease-fighting capabilities. USAID also supports other critical areas such as “infection prevention and control, preparing laboratory systems for large-scale testing” and public communication on personal preventative measures. Due to aid from Russia, China, the United States and other foreign assistance, as of May 6, 2021, Mongolia has administered more than 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

The worldwide pandemic brought into sharp focus the importance of a nation’s foreign policy and what is made possible through efforts of foreign and domestic relations. Mongolia is reaping the benefits of vaccination diplomacy by relying on its well-established foreign policy framework. Mongolia’s COVID-19 vaccine initiative includes COVAX, an international effort aimed at ensuring equal access to COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the world.

Specifically, Mongolia’s foreign minister, Battsetseg Batmunkh, has maintained excellent relationships with Mongolia’s allies. For instance, the U.S. and Mongolia have been in regular contact on how the United States, as a key ally, can help Mongolia tackle COVID-19. Additionally, On February 24, 2021, Batmunkh expressed deep gratitude to the foreign minister of China, Wang Yi, for China’s generous assistance in providing resources to Mongolia to fight COVID-19. Batmunkh also adds that the China-Mongolia relationship sets a good example of how nations around the world can empower one another in the face of adversity.

The Mongolian government is so optimistic about the country’s vaccination rollout that Mongolia is promising citizens a summer free from COVID-19. With a fully vaccinated population of 53.4% as of June 1, 2021, Mongolia is without a doubt at the forefront of the worldwide effort to safeguard communities against COVID-19.

Anna Lovelace
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 Vaccination in BahrainBahrain is a leading regional actor in COVID-19 vaccination efforts, with more than half of its population fully vaccinated. In addition, it has used technology to its advantage as one of the first countries in the world to create a vaccine passport app, a tool that allows citizens to register for vaccines and track their status. In the Middle East at large, Bahrain has modeled diligent leadership with high vaccination rates.

5 Facts About the COVID-19 Vaccination in Bahrain

  1. Bahrain was one of the first countries to approve the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, aiding in its high vaccination rates. In December 2020, Bahrain became the second country to officially approve the Pfizer vaccine, following the U.K. As Bahrain was able to administer doses early, a higher percentage of its population was vaccinated early on.
  2. Vaccines are easily accessible in Bahrain. Bahrain has led vaccination efforts by offering cost-free vaccines to all citizens. Making vaccines easily accessible has also contributed to Bahrain’s high vaccination rates, with nearly two million doses administered thus far. Citizens can also choose which vaccine to receive by using the registration feature in the BeAware app.
  3. A digital COVID-19 passport app allows citizens to keep track of their vaccination status and register for vaccines. In February 2021, through an app called BeAware, Bahrain became one of the first countries to create a digital vaccine passport. Using the app, users can present their official vaccination status, detailing both personal information and the type of vaccine received. This allows users to present an easily verifiable vaccination status to authorities and officials by scanning a QR code. In addition, users who have not yet been vaccinated can make an appointment through the app.
  4. More than half of Bahrain’s population is fully vaccinated. With a population of 1.6 million, 50.55% of Bahrain’s citizens were vaccinated as of June 12, 2021. As of June 14, 2021, Bahrain administered 1.9 million COVID-19 doses and fully vaccinated almost 870,000 people. In fact, according to Our World in Data, Bahrain ranks second in the world for vaccination rates per 100 people and 13th in the world for total vaccinations, despite its smaller population.
  5. Bahrain is offering booster shots to at-risk individuals. For individuals who received a second dose of the Sinopharm vaccine, Bahrain is offering booster shots at least six months after. Eligible recipients of the booster shots are first responders, people older than the age of 50 and people suffering from obesity, weak immunity or preexisting health ailments. The booster shot effort aims to mitigate recent COVID-19 surges and provide additional protection to those most vulnerable.

A Model of Diligence

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Bahrain has been a consistent model of diligence and effective leadership amid the ongoing health crisis. Furthermore, despite recent surges in the virus, Bahrain is proactive in mitigating the spread of the virus by maintaining travel restrictions for particular countries and offering booster shots to vulnerable citizens. Ultimately, Bahrain’s commitment to adhering to health guidelines and ensuring vaccine accessibility are key factors in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and reaching herd immunity.

– Samuel Weinmann
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