Inflammation and stories on vaccines

Serbia’s cash incentivesIn May 2021, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić announced a new incentive for Serbians to get their COVID-19 inoculations: cash payments. Each fully vaccinated person would receive 3,000 Serbian dinars, equivalent to about $30 in the United States. The policy, aimed at incentivizing Serbs to get vaccinated, may also play a major role in reducing poverty in Serbia. Serbia’s cash incentives to encourage vaccinations have inspired other countries to follow suit with similar strategies.

Poverty in Serbia

Serbia is one of Europe’s most impoverished countries. In 2017, the poverty rate stood at 19.30%. In 2020, the unemployment rate was around 9%, a drastic decline from its peak of 24% in 2012. Poverty rates are particularly high in the rural and southern regions of the country. In an environment of widespread poverty, $30 is a significant incentive that “equates to around 5% of the country’s average monthly salary.”

How Cash Incentives Can Reduce Poverty

Serbia’s cash incentives could be an effective way of reducing poverty. A 2019 study in Kenya showed that cash transfers to impoverished families had a significant impact not only on the recipients but on the entire local community. The study found that each dollar of aid increased economic activity in the region by $2.60. President Aleksandar Vučić’s cash incentives might provide a similar economic boost in Serbia’s cash-poor economy.

Cash Payments Boost Vaccination Rates

The advantages of Serbia’s cash incentives are far-reaching. By providing a strong monetary incentive, the Serbian government increased the number of people who chose to get vaccinated. The public health benefits of a vaccinated country are obvious, but a vaccinated county will also boost Serbia’s economy. Economists universally agree that vaccination programs will add billions of dollars to the global economy within the next few years.

The World Economic Forum states that by ending the pandemic, “10 major economies could be $466 billion better off by 2025.” With vaccinations, workers will be able to resume their everyday jobs, businesses can reopen and the economy can flourish. Greater wages will mean greater prosperity for everyone. Due to these economic benefits, Serbia’s vaccination program will likely pay for itself many times over.

Cash Payment Successes

Serbia’s cash incentive strategy may already be paying off. As of August 4, 2021, almost 40% of Serbia’s population is fully vaccinated, significantly more than the majority of Serbia’s Balkan neighbors. Neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina has only a 7% vaccination rate, and Bulgaria, only 15%. Perhaps these countries, both of which have their own poverty problems, would benefit from Serbia’s vaccination strategy.

Serbia is not the only country to offer rewards for COVID-19 inoculations. In neighboring Romania, Bran Castle offered visitors free admission if they came to receive their shots. Additionally, the U.S. state of West Virginia offered $100 awards to anyone getting a vaccine. Vaccination will allow an individual entry into lotteries where participants will have the chance to win cars, scholarships and even a million-dollar grand prize.

Serbia’s program, however, is one of the first and most ambitious programs to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations. With a cash incentive strategy, Serbia demonstrates how a single action can provide several benefits, reducing poverty at the same time.

– Thomas Brodey
Photo: Flickr

Resilience During COVID-19 in IranJust south of the Iranian capital Tehran lies the metropolitan city of Qom. In late February, citizens in Qom became ill with COVID-19. Within weeks of the global spread, Iran became one of the first global hotspots outside East Asia, alongside Italy. The socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic created a dual crisis that threatened to exacerbate COVID-19’s impact on Iran. In 2018, the Trump Administration announced its intent to withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal, following the successful negotiation of the agreement by the prior Obama White House. The unilateral U.S. withdrawal led to the reimposition of sanctions on Iran, crushing the economy and sending unemployment skyrocketing. In 2018 and 2019, the Iranian economy experienced annual contractions of more than 6%.

Against this backdrop, ordinary citizens took to the streets demanding sweeping change to the government in the biggest protests since the founding of modern Iran. The government responded with force. Hundreds of protestors were killed and the entire nation underwent a total internet blackout that lasted days.

With the country already wobbling from economic and political pressure, the pandemic hit at the worst possible time. As a result, many expected COVID-19’s impact on Iran to be outsized. Instead, the nation showed a shocking level of resilience that befuddled experts.

Economic Rebound

At first, COVID-19’s impact on Iran appeared to be nothing more than an accelerant to the generally negative undercurrents impacting the economy. A widely cited report by the Iranian Parliament Research Center foresaw a dramatic increase in poverty in 2020. By the end of the year, 57 million Iranians were expected to be below the poverty line. Moreover, as major economies across the world experienced sharp contractions, IMF analysts saw a similar fate in store for Iran. According to predictions, the Iranian economy would shed 5% of its size in 2020.

However, the opposite occurred. The Iranian economy actually expanded for the first time in years. Despite the crippling blow of U.S. sanctions and a global economic calamity, Iran posted a GDP growth of 1.5%. In many ways, this turnaround resembled a unique occurrence in China. In 2020, China also registered positive GDP growth, the only large economy to do so. But China had controlled COVID-19, whereas Iran was still struggling with its outbreak. The ability of the capital Tehran to manage its economy relatively well amid greater uncertainty was impressive.

But all was not well in Iran. Deaths from COVID-19 spiked across the country and satellite images confirmed the construction of massive buriel pits. By mid-July, almost 90,000 deaths were recorded in Iran. However, this is believed to be an underestimation. Data from the University of Washington confirms more than 200,000 excess deaths for the same period.

Vaccines Requested and Delivered

To get out of its current situation, Iran needs vaccines. In this arena too, recovery promises to be much faster than initially predicted. The refinement of COVID-19 vaccines, which was expected to take years, was released in months. The current challenge is the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. As of mid-July, only 5% of the Iranian population have received one dose of the COVID-19 jab and just 3% are fully vaccinated. But philanthropy is coming to the rescue. In the United States, a group of philanthropists is planning to send 150,000 Pfizer doses to Iran. Abroad, countries like Russia and China have promised to donate vaccines as well.

The road to normalcy will be difficult for Iran. But a strong global recovery has the potential to bring Iran to success.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19's impact on IndiaIn January 2020, India reported its first COVID-19 case, a student attending the University of Wuhan in China. As the virus spread, Prime Minister Modi ordered a massive lockdown to prevent any further spread. “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country and your family will go back 21 years,” said Modi in an address to the nation. The lockdown worked in reducing COVID-19’s impact on India. Over time, the country managed to successfully contain the virus while the rest of the world struggled. However, difficulties were on the horizon with an impending second wave. Nevertheless, COVID-19 vaccinations bring hope to the nation of India.

A Deadly Second Wave

In April 2021, the manageability of COVID-19 cases in India took a turn for the worse. India was hit by a second wave of the virus, far more severe than the first. Religious ceremonies and political rallies exacerbated the spread of the virus, creating the perfect breeding ground for its resurgence. In May 2021, India reported COVID-19 deaths surpassing 4,000 per day. But, official tallies are most likely inaccurate due to systematic undercounting. Excess deaths, seen by pundits as a more reliable proxy for COVID-19’s impact on India, were much higher, at more than 12,000 per day during the same period. This number of excess deaths is significant compared to around 5,000 daily excess deaths in the United States at the height of the pandemic.

Major Economic Trouble

India has the sixth-largest economy in the world. The nation has long been in a position to greatly drive global poverty reduction. Thus, heavy pandemic-related casualties in the country have had the potential to magnify the national economic crisis. In 2020, sustained lockdowns and supply chain disruptions caused a sharp GDP contraction, more severe than any declines noted in the United States. Once the second wave hit in April 2021, millions of people were pushed below the poverty line almost overnight. In total, the poverty rate in India increased more than twofold.

Vaccines Bring Hope

Like other nations, India has entered a new phase of recovery, one that promises to be more durable and long-lasting than any phases in 2020. The keys to this nationwide recovery are COVID-19 vaccines and their widespread distribution. From social media to politics, Indian nationals call on the rest of the world for help, with many individuals and organizations responding. In June 2021, the White House pledged to send stockpiled doses to India.

Meanwhile, on the ground, NGOs have taken the lead. A local Delhi organization called the Centre for Holistic Development is helping to enroll eligible citizens for official COVID-19 vaccinations from the government. These efforts include homeless people living in government-managed shelters, a frequently marginalized and excluded population.

These cumulative efforts have added up. Although less than 5% of India’s massive population is fully vaccinated as of July 8, 2021, compared to 47% in the United States and 16% in China, about 22% of Indians have received at least one dose as of July 12, 2021. There is hope that this rate will increase, further slowing the spread of infection.

Going forward, mobilization from the Indian government, in combination with NGOs and international aid, has the potential to create positive conditions on the ground. The acceleration of vaccine drives will inoculate the population faster and more expansively. If all goes to plan, cases of COVID-19 in India will become manageable again and the economy will be able to fully recover as economic activity normalizes.

Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Vaccine Scarcity in Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world in a vulnerable position for the past 18 months. Though vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have saved lives in the U.S., almost half of the United States still has not received vaccinations despite widespread access. As a result, cases continue to rise. Africa has seen more than 6 million COVID-19 cases and around 170,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office of Africa. Unlike the U.S., which struggles with COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, vaccine scarcity in Africa is prevalent.

Vaccine Distribution in Africa

Vaccine scarcity in Africa continues to hamper African countries’ ability to vaccinate their populations. About four in five of the 38 million doses that African nations received as of June 2021 have gone to Morocco, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Angola, Tunisia and Senegal. As of June 2021, less than 1% of the continent’s population of 1.2 billion had been fully vaccinated.

“Africa is already playing COVID-19 vaccination catch-up, and the gap is widening,” said WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti in an April press briefing. “Although progress has been made, many African countries have barely moved beyond the starting line.”

AIDS as a Comorbidity

A historical parallel to Africa’s slow COVID-19 vaccine rate is the disproportionate prevalence of AIDS across the continent. The two diseases interact, with AIDS increasing the risk of serious infection or death from COVID-19.

About two in three people living with HIV come from sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNAIDS. Studies that occurred in England and South Africa show that HIV doubles the chance of dying from COVID-19.

Precautions to prevent COVID-19’s spread in Africa, such as lockdowns, also delayed HIV testing and treatment. Data from African and Asian nations showed a nearly 40% dip in testing and treatment during initial 2020 lockdowns compared to the same period in 2019.

Upcoming Donations from the US

As the U.S. reaches the 50% mark for domestic vaccination, it is beginning to donate more vaccines to other countries and help combat vaccine scarcity in Africa. For example, it is in the process of sending 25 million vaccine doses to Africa, according to State Department Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security Gayle Smith’s statement at a digital press conference on July 21. The U.S. will donate an additional 500 million Pfizer doses, with many going to Africa. The Pfizer dose donations will occur through COVAX, an organization that allocates vaccines to participating countries monthly. COVAX will distribute the first batch of doses, totaling 60 million, in August 2021.

The U.S. State Department wants Africa to be able to produce its own vaccinations in the future. “We’re investing through our Development Finance Corporation right now in South Africa and Senegal in increased vaccine production and will be making other investments,” said Smith. “We believe that, for now and for the future, it’s important that Africa produce vaccines for its own consumptions rather than being dependent on having to import those in the majority of its medical requirements.”

Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

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

Vaccinating Rural Communities
There are logistical differences between distributing vaccines to heavily populated urban centers and poorer outlying areas. These differences require attention to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating rural communities, which are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, requires special attention. 

The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for vaccinating rural communities to ensure equitable distribution. This system of maps allows civic authorities to access a comprehensive source of data and translate it into actionable information on the optimal places for setting up relief operations of any kind.

Information on socioeconomic conditions combined with an overlay of physical terrain provides the tools for determining who is most in need of immunization. This ensures that vaccine site planners make the most of a decentralized distribution plan when deciding how to provide for rural areas efficiently.

What Is It?

It is best to view GIS as a method of overlapping different types of data on a given location so that an interested party can view it in light of whatever context they might need. GIS users can filter out whatever data they do not find relevant to their task.

National Geographic adds that the system operates through entering relevant information such as topography and housing distribution in a process called “data capture.” This stores information in snapshots that can inform viewers of how recent their data is and illustrate changes through certain date ranges.

These data stem from multiple sources, involving images from an aerial scan and/or records of human activity. So, the value of GIS in vaccinating rural communities stems from the clear picture it offers distributors on where they can have the most impact. Pandemic frontline workers can make informed decisions wherever they are by pulling up relevant data from their maps on areas of interest.

Who Does It Help?

GIS, with its ability to keep people up-to-date on the condition of areas in need, provides the means to supplement efforts with additional pre-planning. Aside from working around the capacity of available healthcare centers by choosing areas with sufficient personnel and space for vaccinating rural communities, there are more benefits of GIS. These include:

  1. Once GIS creates fairness in planning for nationwide immunity, its information on demographics helps at managing vaccine distribution by relative need based on their vulnerability to COVID-19. On a broad scale, this can mean selecting a cluster of people based on relatively low access to healthcare or a high concentration of infirmities. On a smaller scale, this might involve isolating demographic groups such as the homeless or discriminated minorities.
  2. Keeping track of vaccine stockpiles becomes more important when a larger distribution range requires storing vaccines closer to rural areas. In cases where a country is using vaccines that require two doses, timely delivery is crucial. By storing vaccines in the countryside, distributors find a median between shortening the logistical tail and allowing for the distance necessary for reaching impoverished areas without such hospitals.

Who Is Using GIS?

South Africa quickly adopted GIS as a means of vaccinating rural communities in situations where income gaps between different municipalities impacted travel times to the nearest hospital.

“Reaching South Africans in remote places has begun using mobile teams and mobile pharmacies to ensure that the vaccination program covers ‘the last mile,’” writes Luis Monzon on work the South African government did with volunteers from health NGO Right to Care. Right To Care’s mobile pharmacies regularly use their access to digital maps for tasks as routine as locating the optimal route to their destinations.

An earlier success story is that of Nigeria’s experience using GIS in its efforts to eradicate polio when it was discovered that hand-drawn maps did not accurately reflect resources on the ground. This realization and the use of geospatial data served as the basis for fine-tuning the Nigerian government’s strategy. In having the foundation for a distribution strategy before receiving 16 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, government projections indicate a 40% immunization rate by the end of 2021.

Equal Opportunity Efficiency

Widespread adoption of GIS ensures that a country’s disaster response strategy can protect even the most remote areas from the destabilizing influence of a national crisis. Future applications of this technology likewise stand to benefit as its pool of experienced users broadens.

Whether the responsibility of vaccinating rural communities is in response to a national health crisis or other disruption to normalcy, GIS ensures the fastest possible response in mitigating the impact of a disaster. Expanding access to such comprehensive data serves as a further step in building a self-sufficient network for disaster-preparedness beyond the scope of a pandemic.

– Samuel Katz
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