Dr. Rawiri Taonui | The Greatest Pandemic in History and the Race for Vaccines between Rich and Poor
The Greatest Pandemic in Human History
At the end of this year, Covid-19 will be the biggest pandemic in human history. Currently, the world total passes 60 million cases with 1.4 million deaths. On the current 7 day trend there will be 82 million cases and 1.8 million deaths before the end of the year.
The real figure is much higher. Earlier this year, The Economist summarized more than 100 populations testing serological surveys worldwide for antibodies to Covid-19. This identifies undetected positive cases, which facilitates estimation of shortages in official figures. The results show that the number of Covid-19 cases worldwide is 15x to 25x higher than the official figure.
A similar formula emerges when comparing the official rate with ‘excess death’, where the overall mortality rate is higher than in previous years. This suggests that the actual number of deaths worldwide is 3x to 5x higher than the official figure.
By applying a mid-range factor of 20x for total cases and 4x for total deaths, there are 1.2 billion Covid-19 cases and 5.6 million deaths worldwide.
With the official number of cases reaching 82 million by the end of the year, the true number will be 1.6 billion making the Covid-19 pandemic the largest in human history past 1.4 billion cases from the 2009/2010 Swine Flu Pandemic. With 1.7 million official deaths by year’s end, the true number will be closer to 7.2 million. This is less than the 1918 Spanish Flu, but Covid-19 will be the biggest pandemic in human history.
Pandemics are out of control in many parts of the world. Achieving 60 million today took 17 days, three days faster than the benchmark 50 million and twice as fast as it took to cross 40 million.
Daily cases are getting faster. From the beginning of the year it took 182 days to reach 200,000 new cases per day in June, 105 days to 400,000 cases per day in October and only 21 days to reach 600,000 cases per day in November.
Daily mortality reaches new heights. Mortality peaked at 8,500 per day in April before dropping to 4,000 per day in May / June. During the mid-year peak in July / August, deaths hit 7,400 per day before falling again. Over the past few weeks, the peaks and troughs have merged into an upward trajectory of several notes, one every four or five days this month.
Lack of trans-regional cohesion and coordination between neighboring countries in Europe, and states and counties in the United States, is a key driver of the rise of Covid-19. Different jurisdictions apply different policies and regimes at different times without overall coordination. Some limit travel, others are more open; some airport arrival tests, most not; some require mandatory managed isolation, others require self-isolation. Disobedience, resistance often calls the name ‘freedom’ which is often accompanied by conspiracy theories and Covid-19 fatigue is the second main factor, especially in Western countries.
The result is uncoordinated chaos. It took Europe 208 days to record the first 5 million cases and only 33 days to record the second 5 million cases. The US now has more than 11 million cases and reports 150,000+ new cases and 2,000 deaths per day.
Compliance was higher in Asian countries such as China, Taiwan, and Vietnam where responses were among the strongest in the world and where cases per million of population were lowest.
Driven by inequality, poverty, fragile health infrastructure and a weak contact tracing regime, South America accounts for 30% of all daily deaths.
The numbers are much lower in Africa, partly because there is less travel to and from scattered Western countries, and the demographic average is much younger than Europe. However, concerns remain that the small number of cases reflects poor health, including a lack of testing capacity.
Travel, Travel, Tourism and Seasonal Worker Risks
Opening up international travel to stimulate the economy through tourism, holidays, a multi-country bubble or bringing workers to seasonal jobs has been the third catastrophic factor driving the new boom.
During the summer in the north, Britain allowed people to vacation in Spain and France which led to surges in all three countries.
Slovenia imposed its first lockdown two weeks before New Zealand and took control of Covid-19 by the end of April. The number of cases in June was almost the same as New Zealand. Slovenia then opened its borders. Currently, they have 67,000 cases and more than 1,100 deaths.
Slovakia closed their borders earlier than New Zealand and was the first European country to adopt the mandatory wearing of masks. In May, the number of cases was the same as New Zealand. Slovakia opens its borders. Currently, they have 97,500 cases and more than 700 deaths.
After the late March lockdown, Tahiti eliminated Covid-19 in eastern French Polynesia. In July, the border reopened to stimulate tourism, there are currently 12,000 cases, mainly among indigenous peoples.
As of April, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia also have similar case numbers to New Zealand. At the end of May, they opened the 3-country Baltic travel bubble. The Baltic countries now have 73,000 cases and 2,000 deaths combined.
Data on the Covid-19 situation from the world’s indigenous peoples is very scarce. We know many who suffer in parts of Latin America, Asia and Africa where health support is weak or has been withheld, such as the Brazilian Amazon. Covid-19 also took a terrible toll in which it entered indigenous territories through workers in energy, mining and deforestation in remote areas such as the Amazon, Siberia, and parts of Asia.
Pressure from the rise of Covid-19 is also biting into Pacific islands that were previously virus-free. The Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands recorded their first Covid-19 infections last month, neighboring Vanuatu reported their first cases two weeks ago, and last week Samoa’s first. As a result, Nauru, Tonga, Kiribati, Micronesia, Palau and Tuvalu are the only countries left that have not reported cases of Covid-19.
The situation of indigenous peoples in the former British colony is mixed. Those living in or close to European urban centers, for example, in Manitoba Canada and the Navajo Nations in the US, have higher rates of infection and death.
Those living in remote areas, autonomous regions and asylum areas fared better, especially where they could restrict access to their land with the support of their government. In Canada, the current infection rate for First Nations living in nature reserves is half that for the general population, and in Australia there are very few cases in remote communities.
Those whose communities have shown unusually strong community responses also fared well. Māori accounts for 9% of cases in New Zealand, half of the demographic.
The combination of comorbidities, poverty, poor health provision, poor housing and low-wage employment in vulnerable employment has also created racial differences. In the UK, all non-whites are more likely to catch and die from Covid-19 than whites. In the United States, infection and death rates are higher for African-Americans and Hispanics than for whites, and even higher for Pacific Island communities.
The Race to Get Vaccines
One thing for sure is that universal vaccinations around the world are essential to beat Covid-19. There are 140 vaccine projects of which 50 are currently working through clinical trials on human subjects: Phase-1 tens of subjects, Phase-2 hundreds of subjects, and Phase-3 thousands, before moving to approval.
China and Russia have approved six vaccines between them. The West has expressed concern about the safety of these projects. However, one of China’s vaccines, Sinopharm, has completed its Phase-3 trials on 60,000 people in 10 countries and 56,000 nationals traveling abroad with a success rate of 94.5%. As of this month, Sinopharm has now managed for 1 million people.
Russia has also been giving their vaccine for several weeks, so far no problems have been reported. Yesterday, Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine reported 91.4% effectiveness of its second Phase-3 trial of more than 18,000 people and will test 40,000 people.
In the West, 12 projects are in Phase-3. Seven are the most advanced: the Pfizer-BioNTech project, Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Novavax, Sanofi-GlaxoSmithKline (Sanofi-GSK), Johnson & Jonson, and Medicago
Last week Pfizer-BioNTech announced it had completed two human trials on 30,000 and 43,000 subjects with success rates of 95%. Moderna followed soon, announcing that their vaccine had completed trials with 94.5% effectiveness. The AstraZeneca-Oxford University project is expected to announce its data soon.
Awaiting final approval, there are wide expectations that the UK, Germany and the United States may begin distribution in the second week of December.
Some of the vaccines that have come online are positive. This is the best chance to stop the pandemic. We also need options because there is no clear picture of whether all vaccines work, are suitable for people of all ages, how many will need two shots, how long immunity will last and whether annual flu-like boosters will be needed.
The race between the Rich and the Poor
The main problem with vaccines in successful vaccine search and distribution is the race between rich and poor countries. For a vaccine to be effective, coverage must be universal.
Earlier this year, GAVI (the Vaccine Alliance), a partnership between WHO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the Gates Foundation, established the COVAX program to deliver the Covid-19 vaccine to poor countries. Using funds from rich countries, COVAX has secured approximately 500 million doses from various projects. While progressive, it will not provide full coverage for developing countries.
A typical scenario is that countries that have made a donation to COVAX then spend more on the vaccine, and before that, which means they would expect first access to poorer countries. For example, the European Union donated $ 200 million to COVAX while the UK and Germany each purchased $ 1 billion worth of vaccines.
Earlier this year, the United States, by far the most aggressive when it comes to vaccine pre-purchases, launched Operation Warp Speed, a $ 10 billion multi-agency commitment to identify and secure at least 100 million vaccines from each of the seven at most. promising projects with 400 to 500 million more options if needed.
Likewise, Canada has purchased more than 400 million vaccines from seven major projects. Australia has secured 140 million doses of vaccine from three major projects and the local CSL / University of Queensland vaccine.
Wealthy Western countries have ordered and / or stockpiled more than 4 billion doses of vaccine with a choice of several hundred million more. With a cap on production capacity of between 0.5 and 1.5 billion doses of each vaccine in its first year, 2021 is emerging as a race with the rich winning the best vaccines and more of them, and the poor receiving less good vaccines. . of them, and at the mercy of the West.
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