Some wealthy countries that were most praised last year for controlling the coronavirus are now far behind in getting their people vaccinated – and some, especially in Asia, are seeing COVID-19 cases on the rise. In Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, vaccination rates are languishing in single digits. This contrasts sharply with the United States, where nearly half of all people have gotten at least one injection, and Britain and Israel, where the rates are even higher.
Not only do these three Pacific countries rank worst among all developed countries in COVID-19 immunizations, they also rank below many developing countries such as Brazil and India, according to the figures. and the online scientific publication Our World in Data.
Australia, which does not provide a full breakdown of its vaccination figures, also performs relatively poorly, as do several other countries initially considered remarkable successes in the fight against the virus, including Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan. .
This could change as vaccination campaigns accelerate and supplies become slack. But in the meantime, previously successful countries are exposed to the virus and face longer delays to reopen to the world.
Japan, for example, has only fully vaccinated around 1% of its population and faces another major outbreak just 10 weeks before hosting the already delayed Olympics – albeit without foreign spectators.
The government last week announced an extension of the state of emergency until the end of the month and confirmed more than 7,000 new cases last Saturday alone, the highest daily number since January.
Bureaucracy is part of the problem. Countries facing a growing number of deaths from the virus have often rejected the rulebook, rushing for emergency vaccine approvals and delaying second injections beyond the recommended time to maximize vaccine numbers.
Japan went through a more traditional approval process that required an additional layer of clinical trials for vaccines that had already been tested elsewhere and were in widespread use.
New Zealand also went through its own approval process, finally approving the Pfizer vaccine in February, two months after U.S. regulators approved it for emergency use.
Last year, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins pledged New Zealand would be “in the lead” on vaccines. Now he says the problem is the supply. Pfizer declined to discuss whether it could have supplied New Zealand more quickly, deferring questions to the government.
Australia has faced its own problems. His plan to use mostly Australian-made vaccines took a hard hit in December when development was halted on a promising candidate because it produced false-positive results for HIV.
Next, the European Union blocked a shipment of more than 250,000 doses of AstraZeneca to Australia in March, considering the EU’s needs were greater. Australian regulators have also switched from recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine to the Pfizer vaccine as the preferred option for people under 50, further slowing the rollout.
In South Korea, government officials initially insisted on a wait-and-see approach with vaccines, saying the country’s outbreak was not as severe as in America or Europe. But as transmissions have deteriorated in recent months, public pressure has increased and officials have stepped up their negotiations with drug companies.
Worried about possible shortages, South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun and other officials have started to point fingers at measures taken by the United States, Europe and India to tighten controls on exports vaccines to deal with major epidemics in their country.
Taiwan gave the first vaccines to less than 1% of its population, after receiving just a fraction of the millions of doses ordered. It has also developed its own COVID-19 vaccine, which officials say will be available by the end of July for emergency use.
Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccine expert at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, said there were some advantages to taking a less frantic and more measured approach to vaccination.
“It’s a lot easier to commit to something after seeing it used 100 million times,” she said.
And having the luxury of sticking to the three-week schedule for the second doses of the Pfizer vaccine will likely result in more people receiving those vaccines, she said.
Petousis-Harris said New Zealand and many other wealthy countries that were slow to get started are likely to see their vaccination rates rise rapidly in the coming months, as their campaigns shift into high gear.
By next year, she said, it will likely once again be the developing countries that will be left behind.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:35 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
WATCH | Questions surround the future of the AstraZeneca vaccine:
As of 10:10 a.m. ET, Canada had reported 1,308,547 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 75,954 were considered active. A CBC News death tally stood at 24,797.
Ontario On Thursday, 31 additional deaths and 2,759 new cases of COVID-19 were reported, bringing the total number of reported cases in the province to 502,171. The province reported 1,632 people were hospitalized, including 776 in intensive care due to illness linked to COVID.
All over the North, Nunavut was the first territory to provide updated figures on Thursday, indicating there were 12 new cases. Premier Joe Savikataaq said on Twitter that there are 74 active cases in the territory, all in Iqaluit.
In Atlantic Canada, New Scotland reported 149 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, as health officials announced they would suspend the deployment of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine.
In Newfoundland and Labrador, which is also moving away from the offer of first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, health officials have reported 10 new cases of COVID-19. New Brunswick reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and no new cases were reported in Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King has said his province’s plan to reopen will come next week, stressing that he hopes to see the Atlantic bubble resuming in the coming weeks.
In Québec, health officials on Wednesday reported 745 new cases of COVID-19 and 11 more deaths.
In Manitoba, Health officials on Wednesday reported 364 new cases of COVID-19 and three additional deaths, bringing the number of deaths from the pandemic in the province to 1,000.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, reported 183 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and two more deaths. Saskatchewan and Alberta have suspended the first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing supply problems.
In Alberta Health officials on Wednesday reported 1,799 new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths from the virus. Officials said 737 people were in hospital due to COVID-19, including 169 in intensive care.
British Columbia, which reported 600 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death on Wednesday, will keep its remaining stock of AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine to use as a second dose for residents.
-From CBC News and The Canadian Press, last updated at 10:10 a.m. ET
What is happening in the world
As of Thursday morning, more than 160.4 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a tracking tool updated by Johns Hopkins University. The reported worldwide death toll was over 3.3. million.
In the Americas, the number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits fell last week to 473,000, a new weak pandemic and the latest evidence that fewer employers are cutting jobs as consumers increase spending and more people companies are reopening.
In the Asia Pacific region, the government of Sri Lanka has banned nationwide travel for three days in an effort to contain the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases.
In L’Europe , Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced next year an investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic which should focus on why the UK has suffered the highest death toll in Europe and has been so slow initially to enforce a lockdown.
In Africa, The Kenya Ministry of Health Wednesday said on twitter that “925,509 people have so far been vaccinated against the COVID-19 disease across the country. “
In the Middle EastIran’s reported number of COVID-19 cases stood at over 2.7 million, with more than 75,900 reported deaths.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated 9:05 am ET.
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