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Illustration by Security Management

Inoculation Efforts Underway Worldwide

One year after initial reports of a “mystery illness” in Wuhan, China, vaccination efforts are well underway worldwide to curb the spread of COVID-19.

In China, more than 73,000 people have been inoculated within two days of the country’s approval of a domestic coronavirus vaccine. In Beijing, 220 vaccination centers have been set up, and the first doses are earmarked for the elderly and frontline medical workers. State vaccine maker Sinopharm said last week that its vaccine is 79 percent effective, although more detailed clinical data has not been released. Since the summer, millions of Chinese citizens—many of them state employees—have been vaccinated under emergency use guidelines, NPR reports.

More than 800,000 people have been inoculated so far in Russia, and more than 1.5 million doses have been dispatched, according to Health Minister Mikhail Murashko. Russia has one of the world’s highest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases, Reuters reports, and it is betting on multiple vaccines to address the challenge. Inoculated people will receive an electronic vaccination certificate, a record of which will be kept in a government database.

Israel has inoculated a higher proportion of its population against COVID-19 than any other country, outstripping its supply of vaccine, according to The Seattle Times. Since the start of the vaccination campaign on 20 December, Israel repeatedly surpassed its daily 150,000 vaccinations goal—reaching 12 percent of its population with the initial dose. The rush for vaccination is competing with a surge in infections; confirmed COVID-19 cases in Israel are topping 6,000 a day, and some hospitals are close to capacity.

In the United States, vaccinations are lagging far behind the federal government’s goal of inoculating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020. According to Kaiser Health News, more than 4.2 million Americans have received their first doses of vaccine, but distribution missteps have slowed supply. Access to shots varies widely from state to state and county to county; some hospital systems launched reservation websites that quickly became booked or crashed, The Washington Post reports. Vaccinations for those outside healthcare or long-term care fields are few and far between.

In Latin America, Mexico and Chile lead the charge with mass immunization programs. Frontline medical workers were first in line as thousands of doses were delivered in late December. The Mexican government has pledged to make vaccinations free of charge across the country, requiring logistical assistance from armed forces. The first doses were guarded by a security escort to avoid interference from criminal gangs. Vaccination is a highly politicized issue in many countries, however, including Brazil where far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has said he will not take a vaccine, according to International Business Times.

The European Union has been criticized for a slow rollout of COVID-19 shots across the region. In a press conference today, EU Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer said the main problem is “an issue of production capacity, an issue that everybody is facing.” Mamer added that the EU has signed contracts with six companies to enable its 27 member states to get access to 2 billion doses—enough to vaccinate the EU’s population of 450 million people, ABC News reports. However, only one vaccine—Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine—has been approved for use so far in the EU.

In France, which has been particularly hard hit by COVID-19 cases in recent months, President Emmanuel Macron is facing an early 2021 crisis in slow vaccinations, hampered by administrated red tape, a lack of nursing staff during the holidays, and the initial rollout plan that targeted only the elderly in nursing homes, according to Bloomberg. As of 3 January, France had vaccinated only 516 people, compared with nearly 239,000 in Germany. Macron is also facing a challenge around perception: according to an Odoxa poll, 58 percent of French people do not want to get the COVID-19 vaccine, which has led to further delays from a step-by-step consent process.