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COVID-19 Vaccination in the U.K.The World Health Organization (WHO) officially labeled the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic in March 2020. This declaration pushed scientists and pharmaceutical companies around the world to develop vaccines. By December 2020, the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, became the first country to approve COVID-19 vaccines for the public. To date, the U.K. is on track to achieve herd immunity, with close to 67% of its total population vaccinated with one dose and nearly 50% vaccinated with two doses. Although definitions of herd immunity vary, it generally involves vaccinating a majority of the population to reduce the spread of disease. Considering the success of COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom, below are six facts about the current situation.

6 Facts About COVID-19 Vaccination in the United Kingdom

  1. The U.K. developed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. University of Oxford scientists worked in collaboration with the English pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to develop this vaccine. In January 2021, an 82-year-old man named Brian Pincker was the first to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in England. The U.K. government currently has access to 100 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca and 50 million doses of the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines.
  2. Vaccination programs vary across the U.K. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own healthcare systems and chief medical officers. As a result, vaccination programs and policies vary between nations. For example, Scotland first vaccinated residents in care home facilities, whereas England vaccinated community members above the age of 80. Despite these differences, all four nations generally agree on the priority list of people eligible to receive vaccines. They all follow the advice that the U.K.’s independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization gave them.
  3. The U.K. offers vaccines to certain age groups. The National Healthcare Services (NHS) in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland currently offer vaccines to people over the age of 18. However, NHS England currently offers vaccines to people over the age of 23. As the rollout of vaccines continues in the coming months, this age limit will lower. In all four nations, people under the required age limit can receive the vaccine if they have pre-existing medical conditions, including lung conditions, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., that make them clinically vulnerable to COVID-19.
  4. The U.K. offers vaccines to frontline workers. Across the U.K., frontline workers can receive COVID-19 vaccines regardless of whether they meet age requirements. Frontline workers include healthcare workers, social workers, hospital receptionists, mail carriers, funeral home directors and childcare providers.
  5. The U.K. will donate vaccines to other countries. In a recent G7 meeting in Cornwall, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged over 100 million vaccines to countries in need. As a group, leaders of the G7 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, committed to donating 1 billion vaccines to countries around the world.
  6. COVID-19 vaccination in the U.K. can reduce poverty. At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment in the U.K. reached 5% for the first time since 2016. This is a direct result of in-person venues and institutions closing for public health concerns. COVID-19 vaccination efforts can help reopen in-person institutions, reinstate jobs and lift people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination in the United Kingdom has been successful, as over 79.3 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine. People receive these vaccines in community pharmacies, hospitals, local general practices and other vaccination sites around the country. As a result, the U.K. government is currently on track to vaccinate all adults soon.

In the words of British Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi, this constitutes a “fantastic milestone and cause for celebration.” As more people get vaccinated, the U.K. government will be able to ease lockdown restrictions and reintroduce a sense of normalcy in society.

Chloe Young
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South KoreaThe COVID-19 pandemic that began in late 2019 has impacted families, communities and society as a whole. The pandemic precautions have been a worldwide effort to keep everyone safe. In South Korea, there have been a total of 118,243 cases of COVID-19 as of April 2021. Of the 118,243 who tested positive, there have been 1,812 deaths but 107,781 individuals have recovered. The statistics show the persistent effort that is being demonstrated by the South Korean government to keep the country and its citizens safe.

COVID-19 in South Korea

South Korea has made it a priority to establish a system for the country and its citizens in order to keep everyone safe. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea made it a priority to mitigate the situation by distributing tests to as many people as possible. The results of the test, positive or negative, would gauge the severity of the outbreak. The goal was to have everyone quarantine so that the transmission of the virus, regardless of the positive or negative test result, would be slowed. The procedure that the South Korean officials followed was: test, trace and isolate. Within weeks of the first COVID-19 case, South Korea was the leading country in distributing tests. In perspective, by the end of April 2020, the United States had more than one million positive cases. South Korea had fewer than 11,000 cases. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea had 3,700 cases whereas the United States had 32. Managing the quick outbreak, and dealing with its repercussions was not easy for any country. However, South Korea was able to quickly formulate a system of test, trace and isolate. This helped lessen the number of lost lives.

Vaccine Efforts in South Korea

The creation and distribution of vaccines have been a large factor in the success that South Korea has seen in combatting COVID-19. South Korea has signed a contract with Pfizer to purchase another 40 million doses of its vaccine. Collectively, South Korea has 192 million doses of vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The goal that South Korea had set was to have 70% of its citizens vaccinated with the first dose by November.

In order to obtain aid and assistance to receive these large quantities of vaccines, South Korea looks to the United States for help. South Korea provided assistance to the United States in the early stages of the pandemic with COVID-19 testing kits and face masks. Therefore, South Koreans hope for help from the United States in return. The U.S. State Department has made a statement regarding this vaccine alliance. The Department sees a possibility to help other countries increase their vaccine supplies but the citizens of the United States will be the priority.

Looking Ahead

South Korea was extremely successful in combating the virus at the beginning of the pandemic by acting quickly in response to testing and isolation. When no one knew how to handle the pandemic, South Korea stood as a strong example of how to minimize the effects of a global pandemic.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

AstraZeneca's Role in the Global Vaccination EffortThe Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine made many controversial headlines in mid-March 2021 because of a suspected link between it and a rare and sometimes fatal blood clot that forms in the brain. However, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be a crucial part of the global vaccine rollout effort. Not only is it a safe and effective vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), but it may also be the best candidate to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable populations in developing countries. AstraZeneca’s role in the global vaccination effort is key in ensuring the global eradication of COVID-19.

The Science Behind the AstraZeneca Vaccine

The AstraZeneca vaccine is around 70% effective against COVID-19 with some studies suggesting it can be up to 90% effective. Although it is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it is still more effective than what many experts anticipated any vaccine would be.

In mid-March, some European countries paused the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout based on claims that it caused a rare blood clot. A lack of evidence led every country to resume production and use of the vaccine. Out of 11 million people who received the AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.K., five people reported developing this blood clot. Though there has been no sufficient data to suggest any correlation, British officials and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) will continue to monitor the vaccine in case of other side effects.

Because of its effectiveness against COVID-19, the AstraZeneca vaccine has joined the ranks of other WHO-approved vaccines, like Pfizer and Moderna. Here are some reasons why AstraZeneca is better than other vaccines in leading global vaccination efforts.

Benefits of AstraZeneca

  • Cost: The AstraZeneca vaccine will not be marked up. This means it will cost less than $5 per dose. By contrast, the Pfizer vaccine is $20 per dose, and the Moderna vaccine is around $35. This makes the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine a more feasible option for developing countries with limited funds.
  • Temperature: The AstraZeneca vaccine does not need to remain at the astronomically low temperatures the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require. Instead, it can stay at standard refrigeration levels for months. Thus, for developing countries, which often lack the distribution infrastructure and/or are very hot, the AstraZeneca vaccine is the ideal option.
  • Commitments: Oxford/AstraZeneca has already promised it will provide the developing world with more than a billion doses of the vaccine. Of that, 300 million vaccines will come through the WHO’s COVAX initiative. While Moderna has recently joined the COVAX initiative, the bulk of its agreement of 500 million doses will not be distributed until 2022. Pfizer has joined Oxford/AstraZeneca in the COVAX initiative.
  • Production: A major barrier to widespread vaccine rollout is that countries and companies often lack the infrastructure or ability to produce the vaccines fast enough. The solution would be for vaccine companies to relinquish intellectual property (like patents) to let others produce generic versions. Unlike other WHO-approved vaccines, AstraZeneca has shared its patent information with manufacturers in some low-income/developing counties that need the vaccine desperately, like India and Brazil.
  • Current events: In mid-February, COVAX supplied 600,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Ghana. As of the beginning of March, Cote d’Ivoire also received and began rolling out approximately 500,000 vaccines from COVAX. The initiative is using AstraZeneca because it can be kept at a temperature that makes it a simpler vaccine to distribute. The AstraZeneca vaccines given to these two countries came from a factory in India.

Why is it Important to Vaccinate the World?

Developed countries cannot focus only on their own vaccination efforts and neglect the needs of low-to-middle-income countries. If vaccines do not reach developing countries effectively and quickly, these countries will face even more severe economic distress. This will worsen inequality between wealthy and impoverished nations. Until developing countries have significant access to vaccines, the global economy will lose around $150 billion in output every year. AstraZeneca’s role in the global vaccination effort is essential in ensuring this does not happen.

Additionally, many epidemiologists argue that developing countries must receive substantial amounts of the vaccine at the same time as wealthier countries for the global rollout to be the most successful. Otherwise, the virus will continue to spread and mutate, leaving the vaccine efforts in developing countries to be less effective.

President Biden recognizes that the U.S. population will not be safe from the pandemic if people in developing countries are not protected. Following this, Biden has promised that any surplus vaccine doses will go to developing counties. AstraZeneca’s role in the global vaccination effort is essential in ending the global pandemic and ensuring safety for all nations.

– Elyssa Nielsen
Photo: Flickr