Inflammation and stories on vaccines

Polio Vaccination Campaign
In October 2021, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported two polio cases in Bissau and one in Biombo, a region neighboring the capital of Guinea-Bissau. The Ministry of Public Health, with assistance from UNICEF, WHO and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative commenced two polio vaccination campaigns in 2022. “Polio Never Again” vaccinated hundreds of thousands of children in April and June 2022, successfully preventing the spread of the disease, and ensuring that no child in Guinea-Bissau will suffer from polio in the future.

The Vaccination Process in the Polio Vaccination Campaign

Guinea-Bissau’s vaccination campaign involved 3,385 volunteers, split into 677 teams, who traveled door to door in rural communities during the first round of the campaign. UNICEF reports that the campaign began in front of Guinea-Bissau’s Ministry of Public Health on April 27 and decentralized from there. In addition to administering the polio vaccine, teams also administered Vitamin A and Mebendazole.

Upon receiving their vaccinations, vaccination teams marked the children with blue for identification and counted and registered the number of children per household. Purchasing 907,000 doses of polio vaccines and five refrigerators for storage beforehand, the Ministry of Health ensured that the vaccination teams possessed sufficient vaccines when traveling across neighborhoods and villages. Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) strategically planned the targeted households before the start of the campaign, guaranteeing that every child would receive a dose of the polio vaccine.

Succeeding in Spite of Obstacles

Despite the campaign’s eventual success, Guinea-Bissau’s polio vaccination campaign faced several issues throughout the two vaccination rounds. For instance, since Guinea-Bissau contains multiple islands, such as in the Bijagos archipelago which consists of 88 islands, many families frequently traveled between the islands and to the mainland and were hard to track. Coupled with limited transportation methods, vaccination teams often experienced time-consuming routes to vaccinate all children. Fortunately, by frequently interacting with each other, the vaccination teams were able to track down the vast majority of households in Guinea-Bissau.

Another problem that arose during the campaign occurred due to the cashew harvest season, which forced many children to travel to cashew nut fields with their parents. Considering the fact that cashews are among Guinea-Bissau’s top exports, many households rely on cashew harvesting for money, forcing both parents and children alike to take advantage of the short season. Luckily, by consistently interacting and providing updates to one another, the vaccination teams and CHWs were able to track down the majority of households for polio vaccination.

A Brighter Future

By the end of the second vaccination round in June 2022, Guinea-Bissau successfully vaccinated 340,462 children in the nation. With 99.2% of children under 5 vaccinated, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative considered Guinea-Bissau’s polio vaccination campaign a success, with the coordinator of the organization labeling Guinea-Bissau a “pioneer” for reaping such positive results. Furthermore, the vaccination campaign’s strategy also helped create the framework for successive national measles campaigns. Overall, because of such results of its polio vaccination campaign, one can say that Guinea-Bissau has successfully eradicated polio in children for the foreseeable future.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

 Cold Chain Equipment in PeruPossessing the “highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world” in mid-2021, Peru was among the hardest-hit nations in Latin America during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF says. In light of the pandemic’s devastating social and economic ramifications, UNICEF facilitated vaccination rollout efforts by supplying cold chain equipment in Peru. UNICEF’s acquisition of 1,100 solar-powered freezers not only helped transport COVID-19 vaccines across Peru but also helped alleviate the pandemic’s health implications across Latin America.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Peru

According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty levels and exposed the gravity of inequality in Peru. In 2020, Peru faced a -11.1% decrease in GDP and a “10.5% reduction in household income,” resulting in many Peruvian households, primarily those residing in rural regions, suffering economically, UNICEF reports. Furthermore, according to statistics, Peru experienced 1.5 million job losses while “1.2 million children fell into poverty” and close to 90 million Peruvian children missed out on a formal education during the height of the pandemic.

The informal economy and overcrowded housing in Peru are two factors that exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic’s ramifications in the nation. According to the BBC, 70% of Peru’s working people are employed in the informal sector, which means that many Peruvians faced unemployment, could not earn an income or faced wage cuts due to a lack of job security. Furthermore, Peru’s overcrowded housing allows the COVID-19 virus to spread rapidly due to a lack of social distancing. In addition, Peru’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has moved slowly.

The Importance of Cold Chain Equipment

In order to help accelerate the vaccine rollout in Peru, proper refrigeration is crucial to “protect the potency” of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, vaccination programs use cold chain equipment to store and transport doses across Peru, particularly in rural areas where vaccination distribution is difficult. Electric and solar-powered refrigerators store vaccines in a “2°C to 8°C temperature range,” allowing vaccines to be housed in optimal conditions when traveling through regions that lack access to electricity.

UNICEF’s Vaccination Rollout Strategies in Peru

In light of the adversities impacting Peru, in November 2021, UNICEF’s Supply Division procured 1,100 solar-powered freezers for Peru. UNICEF distributed 57 of these freezers to “Huancavelica, in the Andean region, and Loreto and Ucayali in the Amazon regions,” which are isolated, rural areas with Indigenous people, the UNICEF website says.

Shipping these units from Luxembourg, UNICEF worked with Peru’s Ministry of Health to inspect the freezers and help distribute vaccines across remote communities that have limited electricity.

Furthermore, in early 2021, UNICEF helped Peru’s Ministry of Health procure an additional 10,339 pieces of refrigeration equipment through “an international procurement process.” UNICEF oversaw delivery times, the quality of equipment and the negotiation of prices to ensure transparency in the competitive procurement process. UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru, through both direct and intermediary means, ultimately ensured that the ministry could efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the nation.

Peru’s Rising Vaccination Rates

UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru helped to significantly increase Peru’s vaccination rates. By October 2022, Peru had administered more than 84 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Although Peru is still grappling with the pandemic’s implications, the nation’s steady increase in vaccination rates is indicative of Peru’s bright and promising future.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Vaccines to Madagascar
Madagascar, like much of the world, has dealt with disinformation, confusion, disrupted supply chains and health crises from the pandemic. Additionally,
like much of the developing world, Madagascar remains largely unvaccinated. In fact, the country has administered only enough doses to vaccinate between 4-5% of the population. However, international organizations are working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar.

An Inside Voice

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Pierre Ranjakamanana, a 21-year-old student from Antananarivo, stated that the pandemic “badly affected the country in many ways, especially people from poor backgrounds.” The government-imposed lockdowns and curfew impacted Antananarivo’s many independent vendors, who often rely on daily income to make ends meet. Ranjakamanana recalled that “people were desperate due to the fact that they had to stay at home for two weeks.”

“All of us were panicking because we heard on the news that COVID-19 had killed many people in China. Then, we started thinking of ways not to get the virus, so we drank hot water tea with ginger and lemon in it, washed our hands every single time, and decided not to go outside.” He also remembered that while some took the virus very seriously, others “did not really believe in the virus because they believed that COVID-19 is like a normal disease like headache, fever and all that, so there is no point in panicking.”

Debunking the “Tea”

One of the biggest challenges during the pandemic was overcoming misinformation and acquiring COVID-19 vaccines for Madagascar. Madagascar’s President Rajoelina has promoted an herbal tea that the Malagasy Institute of Applied Research developed as a COVID-19 cure. Called “Covid-Organics,” it is based on the artemisia plant, an important source of anti-malarial drugs. However, there is no evidence that tea has any effect on COVID-19. Still, the country has shipped thousands of doses to different countries, tried to develop an injectable version, and distributed the tea to schools, threatening students with expulsion if they did not drink it.

Efforts to Vaccinate Madagascar

Thankfully, international organizations are distributing vaccines and medical equipment to Madagascar. COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) are organizations that acquire, organize and distribute COVID-19 vaccines to the developing world and Africa, respectively. The U.S. State Department has given 1.7 million doses to these organizations, 74% of Madagascar’s total so far.

In 2021, the World Bank gave $100 million to Madagascar to help the country acquire and distribute more vaccines. If implemented smoothly, the initiative should vaccinate about 5.6 million people, as well as support the infrastructure that will continue to vaccinate the population. Some COVID-19 vaccines must be kept on ice, which vastly increases the logistics of distribution.

UNICEF is also working to provide COVID-19 vaccines to Madagascar, supporting the government’s goal of vaccinating 9 million people before the end of 2022. UNICEF’s main work is buying vaccines and supporting and setting up clinics and distribution centers.

Though very little of the Malagasy population has received vaccines, it is encouraging to see the country overcoming previous hurdles in fighting the disease and finally gaining access to precious vaccines. 

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Access for Brazil
During the pandemic, many governments have worked independently and together to combat the virus and provide vaccinations for citizens in their states. However, Brazil has proven itself to be an exception, as vaccine access for Brazil was incredibly limited due to the president’s resistance. However, as of June 2022, 80% of the population is now vaccinated, and this rate is higher than the world average.

How President Bolsonaro is Infringing on Vaccination Rights and Access

Brazil operates on a universal health system that guarantees public access to necessary vaccines. In fact, vaccination rights have constitutional protection and the government has a legal duty to ensure them. As in all other countries, the circumstances that the pandemic caused generated an urgent need for vaccines, requiring a rapid, planned response by government authorities. However, President Bolsonaro failed to make COVID-19 mitigation a political priority throughout the country. He turned his back on science to endanger the health and lives of Brazilians and adopted policies that placed their health at great risk. One of his main methods involved spreading false information about COVID-19.

President Bolsonaro also opposed social distancing, refused to wear a mask, and regularly shook hands with his supporters. His ultimate goal was to achieve herd immunity in Brazil by allowing the disease to spread. Additionally, he deliberately refused to follow WHO recommendations and sought to block officials from following COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, vetoing legal mask mandates. President Bolsonaro’s failure to prioritize the health of his citizens shows his disregard for human rights amid a global pandemic. Thankfully, however, other actors were eager to take this task into their own hands.

ANVISA’s Crucial Role in Vaccine Access

Now, more than 80% of the Brazilian population has received COVID-19 vaccines. These vaccinations have undergone successful distribution through the National Immunization Program. Yet, distributing these vaccines was not easy — rather, President Bolsonaro’s neglect of public health guidance made distribution more complicated. The main actor behind vaccination distribution was ANVISA, the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency. ANVISA works with the Ministry of Health, which is responsible for controlling and regulating health-related products in Brazil.

The Ministry issued several regulations to enable the distribution of emergency vaccines, but it lagged in its development of a national COVID-19 vaccination plan. Thus, ANVISA took matters into its own hands and negotiated vaccine access for Brazil with willing and available manufacturers. However, the Ministry’s standstill is understandable, considering President Bolsonaro’s eagerness to undermine the pandemic and the fear that officials would receive negative retaliation for combatting the virus. Because of this fear, the ministry lost the trust of many Brazilian citizens. Therefore, ANVISA was able to quickly gain public trust and vaccine access for Brazil because of its administrative independence, financial autonomy and the stability of its leaders and technical personnel. Additionally, it gave scientifically supported and unbiased solutions and technical decisions.

ANVISA’s role has proven to be incredibly crucial. It has issued emergency regulations and analyzed requests for the emergency use of vaccines, demonstrating its thought processes through open, public meetings. ANVISA presented every decision to the Brazilian community, which increased public trust in the approved vaccines.

Struggles to Access COVID-19 Vaccines

Acquiring these vaccines was difficult, as one of the only allowed options was the Sputnik V vaccine, which initially did not receive approval from ANVISA and therefore could not be imported to and used in Brazil. In the meantime, ANVISA worked with local Brazilian governments to negotiate for vaccine access and advance other non-pharmacological efforts to control the pandemic and spread trusted and accurate public health information. Some of these efforts included partial lockdowns and social distancing, for example. These efforts generated more public trust, which paved the way for the eventual vaccination campaign.

ANVISA’s technical performance and consistent course of action eventually assisted local governments in importing safe, effective vaccines and increasing community trust in products, thus improving vaccine access for Brazil. One such process involved giving the Russian COVID-19 vaccine a chance, despite concerns because otherwise, there would not be enough vaccines. Despite safety concerns, ANVISA allowed Sputnik vaccines into Brazil, importing 928,000 doses. Even though this is just a fraction of the total that Brazil requested, it went a long way. However, importing the Sputnik vaccine meant that stringent measures to monitor the vaccine’s safety had to undergo implementation.

Now, Brazil can selectively import vaccines that specific countries have approved for emergency use. It is now restricting Sputnik imports and monitoring them closely. Only healthy adults are eligible for the Sputnik shots and vaccine distributors within Brazil must specify that the vaccine is a Sputnik vaccine.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed, overall, that Brazil’s federal government was not ready to deal with an international public health emergency — a lack of governance and political influence over science prevented the Ministry of Health from vaccinating the country, but thankfully, ANVISA’s consistency in action assisted local governments in eventually vaccinating most of the country. This demonstrates the cruciality of administrative autonomy in organizations and the abilities that such organizations have in implementing policies and actions that help preserve the health of an entire country.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

in-progress-community-mobilization-promotes-covid-19-vaccines-in-ethiopias-remote-villages
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how difficult it can be for people living in remote areas to get access to vaccinations and routine immunizations. However, it has also shed light on the ways communities work together to overcome obstacles and keep themselves and their loved ones healthy. Ethiopia is one country that is having a challenging time vaccinating its citizens. Luckily, community mobilization may provide the answer to distributing COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia.

How Ethiopia Distributes COVID-19 Vaccines

Promoting COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia is no exception. Many Ethiopian children often miss their vaccinations because they live in remote villages. Mothers have to walk for hours to reach public community spaces where immunizations take place. However, the help of volunteers is proving to be crucial in the vaccination of children and the spread of essential information about COVID-19 vaccines in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia comprises several kebeles, which are small administrative districts. Within each kebele, there are “health posts” where health workers distribute vaccinations. However, many people cannot reach these posts because of geographical challenges and uncertain weather conditions. Therefore, health workers have taken it upon themselves to travel, by foot, to the most remote villages in each kebele. These walks can easily take over four hours one way, especially if the hilly terrain is muddy from recent rain. Regardless, these workers go anyway since they plan and communicate about these trips in advance. The districts send vaccines to health centers within each kebele via ambulances and motorcycles. Then, health workers go to the health posts to pick up the doses.

The Importance of Transporting Vaccinations

Many people do not go to the vaccination posts. Instead, they wait for the health workers to reach their closest destinations. It is usually up to the health workers and community mobilizers to ensure that children receive their vaccines. Even though the community is aware of how crucial vaccinations are, very few have their children receive vaccinations. The health stations do vaccination performance evaluations every month; these evaluations reveal that dozens of children miss their vaccinations. Thus, the on-foot outreach trips of these health workers are absolutely essential.

Health workers analyze the monthly evaluations and compile lists of which children have missed their vaccinations. They then arrange the supplies to give the needed doses. According to the evaluations, many of these children miss their vaccinations because it is difficult for mothers to make the journey to the health posts where vaccinations take place. Additionally, mothers often give birth at home with traditional birth attendants, meaning they do not register their children for immunizations. In addition to transporting vaccination doses, health workers are responsible for running in-service and vaccination outreach programs at marketplaces, churches and schools to share accurate information about COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine in Ethiopia specifically and other important immunizations. They work with community elders and religious leaders to run these meetings.

Obstacles to COVID-19 Prevention

These efforts were not easy to implement, however. Many people living in Ethiopia’s remote villages reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic with denial. It was also incredibly difficult to implement COVID-19 prevention policies due to Ethiopia’s weak health system and infrastructure and difficulties with population mobility. It was not very challenging to practice regular handwashing, but it was difficult to implement social distancing policies in religious institutions, marketplaces and other meeting areas. Additionally, a lack of trust in the media and government posed challenges to implementing these policies.

Despite these obstacles, the efforts of health workers and volunteers have proven successful, as vaccination rates are increasing. Groups of volunteer women living in these remote villages are also helping by promoting public trust in the COVID-19 vaccine. When COVID-19 first broke out, many villagers were in denial about its existence. However, a two-day social mobilization training on COVID-19 organized by UNICEF helped curb the initial spread, encourage community members to take the virus seriously and implement prevention measures. The training also served to teach volunteers who now visit other homes to share information on family health, environmental hygiene and sanitation. By getting their COVID-19 vaccinations, health workers and volunteers set examples for their communities.

Overall, the efforts of health workers and volunteers are proving successful as vaccination rates are increasing. Also, intense community mobilization and engagement, with support from UNICEF, the Ethiopian government and district health offices, further encourage vaccine uptake. Additionally, it shows just how important it is to mobilize and communicate relevant and accurate health information for the good of promoting public health.

– Shiloh Harrill
Photo: Flickr

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

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

Delay in Administering Booster Shots
In early September 2021, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and other WHO officials called for a delay in administering booster shots until the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more accessible to low-and middle-income countries. While wealthier nations are already offering booster shots to their fully vaccinated citizens to protect against COVID-19, other low-income countries, such as the African nation of Burundi, are just recently rolling out their first round of vaccines. WHO officials argue that these doses of booster shots would be more beneficial in ending the global pandemic if countries allocate them to developing nations instead.

Prioritizing Developing Nations

This is not the first time WHO officials called for a delay in administering booster shots as Ghebreyesus previously recommended the postponement of boosters until at least the end of September 2021. However, with many nations disregarding this request, the WHO is now calling for nations to pause booster shots until the end of 2021.

Burundi, a poverty-stricken country in Africa, has noted more than 12,000 cases of COVID-19 as of September 1, 2021. However, Burundi accepted its first supply of COVID-19 vaccines only in August 2021. Thus, at this point, a significant portion of the nation remains unvaccinated. These circumstances stand in stark contrast to countries such as Israel that are now offering booster shots to all vaccinated individuals ages 12 and older.

Each booster a nation dispenses comes with opportunity costs. Researchers argue that every booster shot a nation administers constitutes an inoculation that could go toward vaccinating an individual from an underdeveloped nation. These booster shots in wealthier countries ultimately deprive many at-risk populations within low- and middle-income countries of a chance at surviving COVID-19. Without a majority vaccinated population, these nations struggle to thwart the overall spread of the virus in their countries.

The Need for Booster Shots

While Ghebreyesus accepts that higher-risk portions of the population may benefit from booster shots, he believes boosters are unnecessary for low-risk groups. “We do not want to see widespread use of boosters for healthy people who are fully vaccinated,” he said. Furthermore, WHO officials maintain that there is a lack of evidence to suggest that booster shots are beneficial for protecting against COVID-19. Until this proof is available, vaccine doses will likely be more useful if the world prioritizes redirection and distribution of these shots to developing nations.

Compliance for the Moratorium on Boosters

Despite the initial failure of the first moratorium placed on booster shots, WHO officials believe that this time, nations are taking the moratorium more seriously. WHO official Dr. Bruce Aylward has stated that several countries are taking this plea into consideration, delaying their distributions of booster shots. Additionally, some vaccine manufacturers are pledging to supply lower- and middle-income countries with vaccines rather than wealthier nations that already have an ample supply.

As of September 1, 2021, about 73% of the global population was not vaccinated. Many of these unprotected individuals come from underdeveloped nations with lacking resources. Meanwhile, several wealthy nations are administering booster shots to healthy individuals. As the world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to prioritize global vaccine equity as even one nation without adequate protection from COVID-19 means the whole world is without protection.

– River Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Distribution in Latin America
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Latin America hard. As of July 2021, about 1.3 million people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean have died from COVID-19 alone, showing the devastating toll that the virus has had on families throughout the region. With such a high death toll and the introduction of new, more dangerous variants of the original virus, the question of vaccine distribution in Latin America has been a topic of discussion among health experts.

Throughout Latin America, vaccination rates overall have remained lower than world averages. Some countries such as Uruguay have a higher vaccination rate. As of September 16, 2021, the country has administered 171.68 doses per 100 people. Chile’s vaccination rate is second to Uruguay, with 159.65 doses administered per 100 people. The two countries with the lowest vaccination rates are Nicaragua, with 10.97 doses per 100 people and Haiti, with 0.44 doses per 100 people.

Vaccine distribution in Latin America unequivocally varies per country. These discrepancies are problematic in combatting the disease throughout the region. Many of the regions with low vaccination rates have some of the highest mortality rates as well, which has caused more need for the vaccine.

Access to COVID-19 Vaccines

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a report in April 2021 detailing vaccination distribution in Latin America. It included its recommendations and the challenges that Latin America needs to overcome to increase vaccination rates and better the population’s overall prospects. UNESCO gave strategies for vaccination, focusing on impoverished areas that have higher mortality rates. Yet, UNESCO also projects that only approximately a third of people in Latin America and the Caribbean will receive vaccinations by the end of 2021.

Guillermo Anllo, a UNESCO program head for Latin America and the Caribbean, spoke to Reuters in early August. Anllo emphasized how crucial equity is to the distribution of vaccines in Latin America. The pace of vaccination has been slow in the region as a whole due to structural issues. For example, the highest income countries throughout the world have vaccination rates that are 30 times faster than the countries that have the lowest incomes.

Furthermore, economies have experienced damage during the pandemic, especially those in the Caribbean who rely on tourism. This damage to tourism has a ripple effect on the purchasing power of the countries’ governments to obtain more vaccinations, slowing the process in this way as well.

Efforts to Increase Vaccine Distribution

Worldwide organizations and agencies have sent aid to Latin America throughout the spring of 2021. Most recently, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has vowed to increase access to vaccines and to help minimize transmission of COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean. This plan comes from PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Access to Vaccines, which has operated for more than 40 years to distribute vaccines to places in need. PAHO’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Latin America will go to the areas and people at the greatest risk in order to adequately and equitably protect the people of these regions.

With more vaccines on the way and a heightened urgency to vaccinate due to spreading variants, more inhabitants of Latin America will hopefully see higher rates of vaccinations and an increase in safety from the virus in the near future.

– Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Equity
Vaccine equity is important when it comes to distributing COVID-19 vaccines within different parts of the world. Some global initiatives plan on reaching out to many communities by spreading the importance of getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, other factors exist that one should consider when it comes to the importance of promoting vaccine equity.

COVAX Initiative

The purpose of the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, also known as COVAX, is to promote vaccine equity by increasing the availability of vaccines globally. COVAX’s main focus is on providing vaccines to citizens of many countries between now and the rest of 2021. This includes prioritizing countries that would benefit from receiving free vaccines. While working with organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, COVAX will receive enough support to ensure that more people will contribute to improving vaccine access.

Voices for Vaccines

The goal of one global challenge is to expand information regarding COVID-19 vaccines around the world. In collaboration with the Nursing Now Challenge Global Solutions Initiative, the Voices for Vaccines challenge encourages healthcare workers to spread awareness about COVID-19 vaccines and help improve vaccine equity. Anyone who applies will be able to share experiences they have had with other patients, along with sharing their personal knowledge. This challenge will also give workers the opportunity to have open discussions about the importance of promoting equal access to vaccines.

Intrepid Travel’s Vaccine Equity Campaign

One company recently came up with a plan to promote vaccine equity in different parts of the world. One of the things Intrepid Travel’s campaign focuses on is increasing the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. This will occur by informing people about COVID-19 vaccines and expanding access to improve access to vaccines. A donation from the Intrepid Foundation will also go towards supporting the cause. Some places such as Peru and Sri Lanka have provided transportation and hosted informational sessions to help increase people’s access to vaccines.

Other Ways to Increase Vaccine Equity

 One fact that one should consider when it comes to increasing vaccine equity is the creation process of COVID-19 vaccines. The process of tech transfer makes it more difficult for manufacturers to prepare vaccines due to supply, leading countries that need more vaccines to lose access to them. Some forms of technology can help increase the availability of needles and other important items. Companies choosing to work together will be helpful in promoting vaccine equity and saving lives.

The COVAX initiative plans to prioritize expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines and help improve access to vaccines. The Voices for Vaccines challenge is a way to encourage health care workers to emphasize the importance of receiving vaccinations. Intrepid Travel’s vaccine campaign focuses on eliminating barriers to vaccine access. Focusing on where vaccines go after manufacturers create them can have a positive impact on vaccine equity.

– Chloe Moody
Photo: Wikipedia Commons