Will the U.S., Western and industrialized countries with anticipated surpluses of the vaccine against the 21st century’s deadliest disease join to help provide relief for hundreds of millions of COVID-19 victims in Africa, Asia and Latin America?
It’s too early to say, but there compelling reasons to do so.
Worldwide, there have been more than 2 million reported COVID fatalities since the first outbreak of the deadly plague in China in late 2019. But the epidemic remains challenging at home as well as abroad. Here’s a brief recent chronology:
- On February 19, Washington pledged to donate $4 billion for vaccines over the next two years to the global effort against COVID in developing countries. According to New York Times correspondent Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “public health experts often say that unless everyone is vaccinated, it is as if no one is.”
- But three days later, a stark milestone emerged anew about the human cost of COVID-19 at home: the epidemic has now cost more than 500,000 U.S. lives — far more than so far disclosed in any other country.
The scale of the challenge
The United States has said it hopes to deliver half of its estimated overseas vaccine assistance within months, and the overall total of $4 billion by the end of 2022. But progress in combatting the plague at home must determine the scale and pace of Washington’s overseas investments in reaching the same goal.
The countries vary greatly in populations. Taking that into consideration, vaccinations per every 100 citizens are: Israel, 58 doses, the United Arab Emirates, 35 doses, Britain, 14.42 doses, Bahrain, 10.16 doses, and the United States, 9.63 doses. Comparable dosage rates for India and Russia were unpublished as of Feb. 1.
Notable success stories
Some “success stories” are worth sharing because of the way they’ve offered hope for those affected. As of February 1:
- China had the highest number of administered doses, as the world’s most populous country (around 1. 4 billion people). It has managed so far to administer vaccines to 1.6 million citizens, (or about 1.2 percent of its population).
- The U.S., with roughly a quarter of the PRC’s population at 326 million, has vaccinated 32.2 million people (or about 10 percent of Americans).
- Two vaccines requiring two shots are now available, already certified as effective after a second shot. But Pfizer-BioTech and Moderna doses require refrigeration of minus 4 degrees Centigrade during shipment from manufacturer to distributor. Other promising vaccines need only one shot and can be stored in conventional refrigerators.
- Israel has the highest vaccination rate, but still reaches only 57.65 percent of its citizens.
A note of caution
Worth considering in any relief program to other regions by the U.S and our EU allies:
How swiftly can relief actually reach those who still desperately need it? In Africa, there so far have been practically no breakthroughs in a continent of more than 1.3 billion people in need of COVID relief. The same is true for remote or impoverished areas of Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, central and northeast Asia.
Our planet has a long way to go to eliminate the threat of COVID-19. To conquer it is a must for the survival of hundreds of millions around the world. Wealthier nations, led by the United States and its NATO allies, have an obligation to lead in the effort. But they must allocate their assistance with an eye to sustaining success at home as well as around the planet.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More