The COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Which Country Will Finish First?
The race to roll out the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines is officially on.
Over one year since the first case appeared outside Wuhan (where the virus originated), COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of over 3.5 million people worldwide. And as the death rates continue to spike in some areas, news of a vaccine has provided a glimmer of hope for many.
It’s hoped that these vaccines will not only save lives, but help kickstart the economy – specifically, the travel industry, with the help of COVID passports.
So far, according to Our World in Data, more than 1.94 billion doses have been given worldwide – but which countries are leading the way in the vaccination rollout?
A shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is already on its way to saving millions of lives
Countries of all sizes are trying to roll out vaccines as quickly as possible – from Iceland’s small population of just over 300,000, to America’s population of roughly 300 million. We’ve therefore decided to focus our data on the share of people vaccinated in each country, rather than the total number of doses given (using figures collected from Our World in Data).
Each country’s vaccination programme is at different stages, with a handful of countries now rolling out the second course of vaccinations. To outline this, we’ve included the share of both first and second doses on the chart below.
There are currently 16 vaccines that have been approved and released in different countries across the globe, and we’ve taken them all into account.
This data was correct as of 1 June 2021, and will be updated monthly moving forward.
Overall population: 9.053 million people
Share of people fully vaccinated: 59%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 3.8%
Key suppliers: Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech
When it comes to rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, Israel is strides ahead of the rest of the world. Just three weeks after the first citizen received the jab – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself – over half of all Israelis had received their first dose.
Controversially, Prime Minister Netanyahu revealed an agreement between Pfizer and Israel, whereby the country has agreed to exchange citizens’ data for 10 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine – in other words, shipments of 400,000-700,000 doses every week.
Plus, despite its seemingly valiant efforts, Israel’s success story is overshadowed by darker news – the government failing to vaccinate millions of Palestinians living under its military occupation. What’s more, hundreds of vaccine doses are said to have been thrown away in Israeli clinics after reaching the expiration date, while millions of Palestinians are being denied the vaccine.
After only a few weeks of providing vaccinations, studies suggested Israel’s vaccination programme was driving down infections in the over-60s. Israeli Ministry of Health (MoH) figures show only 531 people over 60, out of almost 750,000 fully vaccinated, have since tested positive for coronavirus. What’s more, far fewer in this group fell ill, with just 38 becoming hospitalised with moderate, severe, or critical conditions.
Overall population: 66.65 million
Share of people fully vaccinated:32%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 23%
Key suppliers: Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech
The UK vaccination programme reached its first significant milestone as early as February, after everyone in the first four priority groups – those aged 70 and over, care home residents, healthcare workers, and people required to shield – were offered a jab by mid-February.
Despite the UK’s successful programme, it’s also come under fire from various countries around the world – namely the US – for mixing vaccines. With two different jabs being used and some supplies running short, the NHS has said people can be given a different second dose from their first, if absolutely necessary – a huge no-no in the eyes of some experts.
In response, the New York Times commented that British officials “seem to have abandoned science completely now, and are just trying to guess their way out of a mess.” The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that the authorised COVID-19 vaccines “are not interchangeable”, and that “the safety and efficacy of a mixed-product series have not been evaluated.”
3. The United Arab Emirates
Overall population: 9.771 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 39%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 13%
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm/Beijing, Sinopharm/Wuhan, Sputnik V
Unlike other countries, the UAE has heavily relied on the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine – reported to have an 86% efficacy rate.
In light of this successful vaccination campaign, it’s shocking to see the nation’s coronavirus cases on the rise. Unfortunately, this is due to tourists and influencers flocking to Dubai to escape lockdowns in their regions. As a result, cases have more than doubled since November.
Some people are even flying to the UAE to receive the vaccine. Knightsbridge Circle – a £25,000-a-year private concierge service – has been flying its members to the United Arab Emirates for luxury ‘vaccination holidays’.
Overall population: 1.641 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 39%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 12%
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm/Beijing, Sputnik V
Another Gulf nation leading the way in the race against COVID-19, Bahrain has now reported a rate of 101.83 vaccination doses per 100 individuals, which is only set to increase in the coming weeks.
The government has committed to vaccinating at least 5,000 individuals per day. Similar to the UAE, Bahrain first approved the Sinopharm vaccine in November for use by frontline workers, which was later followed by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Bahrain has also made the jabs much more accessible for citizens by allowing vaccine appointments to be booked through a mobile app – users can even choose between receiving either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Sinopharm vaccination.
Overall population: 771,608
Share of people fully vaccinated: 30%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 21%
Key suppliers: Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm/Beijing, Sputnik V
Although the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines started slowly in Hungary, the country has really picked up the pace in the past few months.
The main reason for the speedy rollout is the governments signing off on additional coronavirus vaccines, even though they have not yet been approved by the European Medicines Agency. Hungary became the first EU country to approve Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in January, followed by China’s Sinopharm vaccine in February.
So, while many of the other EU countries struggle with supply issues, Hungary has plenty of vaccines to offer citizens.
As a result, Hungary’s Prime Minister has said parts of the economy will reopen as scheduled, as the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rate surpasses 40%.
Overall population: 19.1 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 40%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 9.9%
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinovac
Despite having only started its vaccination programme in early February, Chile is on track to meet its goal of vaccinating 80% of its population by June 2021.
So far, Chile has ordered almost 90 million vaccine doses – enough to provide its entire population with both doses of the jab.
The Chilean health system has given the country a great headstart, thanks to its experience in mass immunisation programmes, as well as its many vaccination centres set up around the country.
In 2020, Chile also participated in the clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines, strengthening its negotiating position with companies such as AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, and CanSino.
One of the millions of people receiving their coronavirus vaccine
Overall population: 328.2 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 38%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 10%
Key suppliers: Johnson&Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech
After tallying the highest death toll globally, the COVID-19 vaccine couldn’t come soon enough for the US. Even since the distribution of doses began on December 14th, daily new infections soared by 16% over the first week of January, despite testing actually decreasing by 11.65%.
While many saw the rollout of these vaccines as a sign of hope, some Americans have been left feeling disappointed. Although 88.9 million doses had been given to people across America (as of 1 June), this has fallen significantly short of Donald Trump’s aim to distribute 40 million doses by the end of 2020.
Unfortunately, one of the main things holding back the US vaccination programme is the public’s scepticism of the vaccine. A recent NPR/Marist poll found that one in four Americans said they would refuse a coronavirus vaccine outright if offered – another 5% are ‘undecided’ about whether they would get the shot.
Overall population: 3.462 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 28%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 16%
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinovac
Despite being the last country in South America to receive coronavirus jabs, Uruguay’s COVID-19 vaccine programme is booming.
A few short months ago, in March, the country started its inoculation campaign with a focus on teachers, soldiers, police and firefighters. Fast forward to June, and Uruguay has administered roughly 2,818,367 doses of COVID vaccines.
The beginning of the rollout saw some 90 vaccination centres open their doors to over 140,000 essential workers, to give a first dose of the Chinese CoronaVac shot.
Unfortunately, while coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out rapidly here, cases and death tolls are increasing. Experts believe that politicians may have reduced social distancing measurements too soon in light of the successful vaccination campaign.
Overall population: 83.02 million
Share of people fully vaccinated: 13%
Share of people partially vaccinated: 26%
Key suppliers: Johnson&Johnson, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech
After the country’s slow start – thanks to problems with supplies – vaccine rollouts in Germany finally began to gain traction in March.
German health minister Jens Spahn said the country was heading towards giving 3.5 million vaccinations a week by May, aiming to cover the population by the end of summer.
Now that more vaccines are available, an increase in the number of daily doses administered has climbed, peaking at more than 700,000. Germany also recently set a new European record for coronavirus vaccinations by giving more than 1 million jabs in a single day.
Rolling out a vaccine to millions of vulnerable people in the midst of a pandemic was never going to be an easy task – but it seems some countries have been able to handle the logistics much better than others.
As the vaccine makes its way to millions of people over the next few months, many remain hopeful that we’ll get a little bit more normality back in 2021.