2021 in numbers: Covid-19 vaccinations
“We are all in this together” was a phrase that was used often as the Covid-19 pandemic struck the world in 2020. In April last year, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres used the phrase to call for vaccine equity, and ask that the response to the pandemic be based on “human rights”. As vaccinations against the virus — the most effective tool in recovery from the pandemic — picked up in most parts of the world in 2021, it has become increasingly apparent why this call was necessary. Richer countries have vaccinated a disproportionately large share of their population compared to poorer ones. Here are two charts that explain how Covid-19 vaccinations have progressed in 2021 in the world and in India.
Mass vaccination programmes against Covid-19 began in December 2020. By December 7, just over half the world (55.3%) has received at least one dose of the vaccine and slightly less than half the world (44.7%) has been fully vaccinated, according to data collated by Our World in Data. However, between rich and poor countries, these coverage figures vary vastly. First dose coverage in high-income and upper-middle-income countries is 74.62% and 75.99% respectively, almost 12 times as much in low-income countries (6.3%), and about 1.7 times as much as in lower-middle-income countries (44.7%).
The income group classification is based on a 2020 World Bank country classification, which uses Gross National Income (GNI) per capita to group countries. GNI per capita is $1,045 or less in low-income countries, $1,046 to $4,095 in lower-middle-income countries, $4,096 to $12,695 in upper-middle-income countries, and $12,696 or more in high-income countries.
The difference is even starker in full coverage by a Covid-19 vaccine. The share of fully vaccinated people in high-income and upper-middle-income countries is 68. 5% and 66.9% respectively, over 21 times as much as in low-income countries (3.2%) and 2.3 times as much as in lower-middle-income countries (29.3%).
These differences are not the result of a difference in the populations of these regions. Only 0.67 billion people live in low-income countries. High-income and upper-middle-income countries house 3.73 billion people in total and 3.33 billion people live in lower-middle-income countries, according to population figures collated by Our World in Data from the United Nations World Population Prospects and recent national estimates.
The difference in coverage rather is simply because of the head start richer countries have had. High-income countries reached the peak of daily first dose coverage in the week ending July 3 this year, when about half a per cent of their population (0.45%) was administered the first dose daily on average. 49.7% of the population in such countries was covered by the first dose by this day. At the time, this coverage was 1.05% in low-income countries, 11.9% in lower-middle-income countries, and 35.2% in upper-middle-income countries.
This inequality in access to vaccines is also an issue that has plagued India, which is a lower-middle-income country. 1.3 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered since January 16. Half of these doses have been administered only from September, which was the month when maximum doses of Covid-19 vaccines (236.5 million) were administered in the country. The current pace of administering about 170-180 million doses a month was reached only in August, after supplies of the vaccine increased.
To be sure, the Covid-19 vaccine administration in India is not equal either. All adults in Himachal Pradesh have been completely vaccinated while in Jharkhand, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh, only about a third of adults have been fully vaccinated. Unlike inequality in access to vaccines across countries, state-wise differences in vaccinations across India are not strictly in line with the income of these states. While poorer states – such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh — do occupy the bottom half of the table, they share their lower coverage figures with richer ones such as Punjab and Tamil Nadu.
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