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The covid-19 vaccination in HungaryThe coronavirus infection rate is dropping rapidly throughout Hungary thanks to a steadily increasing rate of COVID-19 vaccination. From a peak of around 10,000 daily new cases in March 2021, as of June Hungary sees fewer than 200 daily new cases.

In May, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff Gergely Gulyas announced that Hungary will not join the new vaccination deal. As part of the deal, Pfizer and BioNTech will provide an additional 2.6 billion doses throughout the European Union (EU). Hungary is the only EU country that has opted out of the deal.

According to Gulyas, the Hungarian government is confident in its current supply. Gulyas stated that in the event a booster becomes necessary, “there are plenty of vaccines from Eastern and Western sources as well.”  Orban used his strong ties with Russia and China to purchase and deploy vaccines from those countries even before the EU approved them.

Vaccination Campaign Successes

Since January, almost half of Hungarians have received their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a result, infection rates have declined rapidly across the country. Compared to the rest of the EU, Hungary had a relatively low infection rate throughout the pandemic.  Hungary peaked at about 10,000 new cases per day. In the first week of July, there was an average of 41 new infections reported per day. That’s less than one percent of the daily average during the country’s peak on March 25. Furthermore, the country has seen fewer than one million COVID-19 cases overall.

Hungary has also expanded vaccine eligibility quickly. It is the first EU country to approve vaccination for citizens as young as 16, who are eligible to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech doses. Around 90,000 young people have already registered for the shot, accompanied by parental permission for those under 18. Euronews reported that “according to government plans, by mid-June, all Hungarians willing to get a Western-developed jab can be vaccinated.” Hungary is hoping to be able to vaccinate children as young as age six which would mean virtually all schoolchildren by early fall when school starts.

Low-Income Families and Vaccination

The percentage of Hungarians at risk of poverty has declined steadily in recent years, dropping around 3% from 2013 to 2020.  Hungary’s at-risk poverty rate was 12.3 % in 2020.  COVID-19 has been harsher on the at-risk population, especially the Roma population living in poor settlements.  The Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), a human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) advocates for targeted measures to protect the Roma from COVID.  HCLU claims that the Hungarian government has overlooked the fact that the Roma have been more vulnerable to COVID’s economic consequences because they lack any financial reserves and rely on day-to-day odd jobs.

A Promising Start

With half of Hungarians vaccinated and many more eligible, working life is returning to normal, allowing the economy to thrive. As low-income citizens including the Roma get vaccinated, they will be able to return to work without fear of illness. Also, fewer people will lose their jobs due to business closures. This successful COVID-19 vaccination campaign is leading Hungary toward a safe return to life as it used to be. Furthermore, the government is confident that its current supply of vaccine doses can sustain the campaign’s success.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Unsplash

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

disability and poverty in Israel
While the national rate of poverty in Israel sits at roughly 19%, the relative poverty rate of Israelis with disabilities is 24%. Disability and poverty in Israel are not dichotomous.

Cyclical Poverty and Disability

Poverty can cause disability because it frequently leads to polluted environments, unsafe working conditions and lack of access to medical care, proper nutrition, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and education. Disability also causes poverty. According to the United Nations, discrimination causes many disabled people to experience “limited access to education and employment,” causing disabled people to disproportionately live in poverty.

According to the United Nations, “For every child killed in warfare, three are wounded and acquire a permanent disability.” These children have a 1.7 times greater risk than children without disabilities of becoming victims of violent crime. Furthermore, without proper education and employment opportunities, it is unlikely that disabled children living in poverty will escape it as they grow older.

How Israeli Innovations are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Accessibility is not only a human right, it is also the means by which disabled people achieve equal opportunity. Lack of accessibility often means inequitable treatment for people with disabilities and assistive technologies are a major component of accessibility. Today, several Israeli companies are at the forefront of assistive technology development. A few innovations that have come out of Israel in recent times are:

  • The Sesame Phone: The Sesame Phone is a smartphone that people can operate solely by “hands-free, head-controlled access.” It is ideal for people living with a variety of conditions that cause paralysis.
  • ReWalk: ReWalk is a wearable robotic skeleton that provides “powered hip and knee movement to those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).”
  • EyeMusic: EyeMusic is a Sensory Substitution Device (SSD) that emerged to provide auditory sensory substitution in order to simulate visual stimuli for the blind.
  • Lola: Lola is a multilingual, fully voice-controlled SMS application that voice commands control, catering to a wide variety of people with disabilities.
  • Playwork: Playwork is common physical therapy equipment that received rebranding as various games in order to ease the transition to rehabilitation.

While all these innovations are changing the landscape of accessibility, the innovations are not cheap. Not only do those hoping to acquire innovative accessibility options have to worry about affordability, but these technologies’ creators also have to worry about funding their production. Finding funding for a startup or development project is not an easy task.

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech” is a collaborative program between the Innovation Authority and the National Insurance Institute that seeks to encourage research and development of assistive technologies. Through Israel’s Innovation Authority, the program supplies grants to Israeli companies and nonprofits who are working to develop assistive technologies. A grant from the program can cover up to 75% of a project. The Innovation Authority also works to establish partnerships between startups and small businesses and international partners. Companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Amazon Web Services to name a few, have benefitted from the funding that the Innovation Authority provides.

The Future

Through grant programs like Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech,” Israeli developers, like those who created the Sesame Phone, ReWalk, EyeMusic, Lola and Playwork, can receive funding for research and development of assistive technologies. Providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities opens up many possibilities in the job market, which in turn, contributes to economic growth and lifts disabled individuals out of poverty.

Access to funding for developing assistive technologies would allow the brutal cycle of disability and poverty in Israel to cease and create ways to prioritize accessibility for citizens with disabilities. Through assistive technologies, many disabled people could achieve full integration into both society and the labor market, allowing a reduction in the correlation between disability and poverty in Israel.

Michelle Schwab
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

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

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

5 Facts About the COVID-19 Vaccination in Bahrain

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

A Model of Diligence

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

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash

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