The number of people vaccinated worldwide against COVID is now approaching 100 million and rising by 4.5 million a day. Israel has vaccinated 33% of its total population and 75% of its elderly population. Norway has completed vaccination of all residents living in nursing homes – the most vulnerable population. The UK has also prioritized vaccination of the vulnerable population of health workers and senior citizens, having administered at least one dose to about 10% of its population. Germany has vaccinated only about 2.8% of its population and around a million senior citizens. Recently there was some confusion whether they would use the AstraZeneca vaccine for senior citizens with some reports claiming that they would not, but the government has clarified that the reports were based on botched statistics. USA has also been vaccinating its senior citizens at a fast rate, administering 30.5 million shots reaching about 9.3% of its population with at least one dose. China has administered 23 million doses and is second only to the USA in terms of people being vaccinated per day. The UAE has also vaccinated about 30% of its population with over 31 million doses administered. India has vaccinated 3.5 million people, mainly healthcare workers, and the program is now gathering steam. In terms of absolute number of vaccinated persons per day, it is the fifth highest globally. According to a Reuters report, India is now targeting to raise the bar considerably by vaccinating ten million people a day.
As the largest vaccination program in world history marches on, the evidence is rapidly piling up in favour of falling infection rates in countries where mass immunization programs have already reached a significant section of the population. In Israel, a large study of 400,000 people above 60 has been done which shows a 33% dip in positivity rates in 200,000 people who received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine compared to 200,000 who did not, just two weeks after vaccination. This indicates that the effects of mass vaccination in lowering transmission of the SARS-COV2 virus may begin earlier than anticipated, as dips in transmission have far-reaching repercussions on overall viral transmission and positivity rates. Indeed, according to a modeling study in the USA, even if only 20% of the population was vaccinated, the reduction in hospitalization and deaths was predicted to be around 60% and 64%, respectively.
The only factor that can put a spanner in the works for now seems to be the global vaccine shortage. The European Union has fallen far behind the rest of the Western world in procurement of adequate doses for their population, and is paying the price for it. Several poorer nations are yet to commence their vaccination programs on any significant scale. The COVAX initiative that will supply vaccines to over a hundred countries, has promised to commence the rollout by February 2021.
Global requirements are in excess of 10 billion doses, and one may be reminded that we are already facing a shortage crisis after having administered just 1% of this number over the past few months. Now, it is up to the manufacturers to do their best for producing vaccines for the world in adequate numbers.