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334 million doses administered in 121 countries

Posted March. 13, 2021 07:18,   

Updated March. 13, 2021 07:18


About 100 days have passed since Covid-19 vaccination started for the first time in the world in the U.K. on December 8 last year. In countries such as Israel, six out of 10 people have already taken the jab, while many other countries have yet to start vaccination.

According to Bloomberg and “Our World in Data,” an international statistics site, 334 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered in 121 countries as of Thursday. An average of 8.41 million doses are being administered daily on recent days. If this pace continues, it will likely take more than three and a half years until the world achieves “herd immunity,” a situation wherein more than 75 percent of the whole population completes the second dosing. However, the progress in vaccination has been increasingly gaining speed lately.

Countries that have administered vaccines more than others are the U.S. (95.72 million doses) and China (52.52 million doses). However, it is Israel that has reached the highest rate of vaccination relative to national population. Starting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on December 19 last year, Israel has immunized a total of 9.07 million doses thus far. The number of people who have taken at least one dose amounts to 58.6 percent of its entire population, and as many as 46.2 percent have completed the second dosing. Israel is followed by the United Arab Emirates (35.2 percent), and the U.K. (33.6 percent) in terms of the ratio of population who have completed the first dosing.

Israel succeeded in “securing vaccine supplies early on” in turn for promising global pharmaceutical companies that the country would provide core clinical data including gender, ages, and underlying health conditions of people who are taking the vaccine. The country is expected to complete the second dosing of vaccination in 75 percent of its population by next month. Attention is focusing on whether Israel will become the first country in the world that will have achieved “herd immunity.” It will likely take five months for the U.S. to hit 75 percent in overall vaccination rate, and seven months for the U.K. to achieve the milestone.

In contrast, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are said to be lagging behind “in the speed race for vaccination” among major countries. Notably, Japan started immunization on February 17, but has only administered 181,200 doses, according to Bloomberg tallies. The island nation is progressing slower than South Korea, which started vaccination on February 26 and has given the vaccine to 540,000 people until Friday.

Watchers say the delays in Japan stem from the country’s vaccine licensing system. Tokyo only allows the use of foreign vaccines after securing results of clinical trials conducted in its own people. The only Covid-19 vaccine that has been licensed in Japan thus far is Pfizer’s. Clinical trials are still underway in Japan for the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines. The country has a different vaccine licensing system from Korea, which implements the licensing process based on the results of clinical trials in foreign countries.

Since the supply of the Pfizer vaccine was delayed amid this situation, the pace of vaccination in Japan slowed even further. Pfizer is postponing confirm‎ing the timeline for its supply of vaccines that it promised to supply to Japan. The world is elevating “vaccine barriers,” with the European Union having decided to issue permission for each shipment individually when exporting vaccines beyond the economic bloc.

Recently, Chile has been significantly accelerating its vaccination speed, drawing attention from countries around the world. During the past week, Chile managed to administer 1.3 doses per 100 people. The figure is higher than 1.04 that Israel was able to record over the same period. Chile has reached 23.3 percent in overall vaccination rate, ranking fourth in the world. This apparently results from the fact Chile secured a large volume of Sinovac’s Covid-19 vaccine early last month.

Sung-Gyu Kim sunggyu@donga.com