The COVID-19 Vaccine Race: Which Country Will Finish First?
The race to roll out the much-anticipated COVID-19 vaccines is officially on.
Just over one year since the first case appeared outside Wuhan (where the virus originated), COVID-19 has contributed to the deaths of over 2.5 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.
So far, according to Our World in Data, more than 239 million 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 on the total number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people – using figures collected from Our World in Data.
Since each country’s vaccination programme is still in its early stages, the data is focused on single doses of the vaccine, rather than the usual full course of two jabs.
There are currently 12 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 March 2021, and will be updated monthly moving forward.
Overall population: 9.053 million people
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 92.46
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 have now had their first dose.
Fast forward to today, nine in ten Israelis have now received their COVID-19 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, there is already evidence emerging that suggests Israel’s vaccination programme is 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: 97,625
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 76.36
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Sinopharm/Beijing
This Indian Ocean archipelago began vaccinating its population against the coronavirus on 12 January, and was the first African nation to do so.
Seychelles was able to get the ball rolling thanks to a donation of 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from Abu Dhabi, as well as another generous offer of 100,000 doses of the Oxford Astra-Zeneca vaccine from the Indian government.
This popular tourist destination is ready and raring to get the economy going with help from the vaccine. The government is planning to kickstart its tourism industry by removing the current quarantine requirements altogether for visitors who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
3. The United Arab Emirates
Overall population: 9.771 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 60.82
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm/Beijing, Sinopharm/Wuhan, Sputnik V
So far, the United Arab Emirates has protected just over 60% of its population with the coronavirus vaccine, and is aiming to inject at least half of its residents in the first quarter of 2021. The Gulf nation stated on Twitter on the 13th of January that it had administered more than 1 million doses of the vaccine so far.
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: 66.65 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 30.13
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech
The UK vaccination programme reached a significant milestone after entering the second part of its first phase. This comes as 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.
So far, more than 20 million people in the UK have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
Despite the UK’s successful start, 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.”
Overall population: 328.2 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 21.77
Key suppliers: 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%.
But for many, the rollout of these vaccines is a sign of hope. Once the people most at risk have received their jabs, the country’s’ 87 million essential workers are expected to be next in line – although it’ll be up to individual states to decide which industries to prioritise.
Some Americans, however, have been left feeling disappointed. Although 33.7 million doses have been given to people across America (as of 2 February), this has fallen significantly short of Donald Trump’s aim to distribute 40 million doses by the end of 2020.
But it’s hopeful that newly elected President Joe Biden – who took office on 20 January – will be able to put the US back on track, after promising to deliver 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days.
The current approved suppliers – Moderna and Pfizer – have pledged to deliver 200 million doses by March, with Dr Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden) also suggesting the emergency approval of a third vaccine by Johnson & Johnson could be just weeks away.
Overall population: 6.945 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 21.06
Key suppliers: Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm/Beijing, Sputnik V
Serbia’s vaccination programme has fast become one of Europe’s most efficient rollouts, after setting up some 200 coronavirus inoculation centers across the country.
However, although the EU is the largest trading partner and investor in Serbia, this successful programme has been made possible with international help from Beijing. The Chinese capital sent Serbia generous million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which has an efficacy of 75% to 80%.
As well as this package, Serbia has received small amounts of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik jab, with elderly patients in nursing homes taking priority.
To combat the spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories, Serbian officials – like many of their counterparts in other countries – received their jabs on TV to encourage citizens to sign up for the vaccination programme.
Overall population: 530,953
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 19.52
Key suppliers: Oxford/AstraZeneca
After receiving a generous 100,000 vaccination doses from India on 20 January, the Maldives quickly began its vaccination programme shortly afterwards on 1 February.
Within one month of rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine, this small archipelagic state injected over 100,000 people – putting it on track to meet its goal of vaccinating the entire population within six months.
The first to receive the shots were President Solih, Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Nasheed, Chief Justice Ahmed Adnan, and Medical Officer Dr. Shiraany Abdul Rahman. Frontline healthcare workers and people from vulnerable groups are also being prioritised in the first phase of the rollout.
Abdulla Mausoom, Minister of Tourism of the Maldives, has also said the country will vaccinate 10,000 tourism workers against COVID-19, in a bid to save the industry. Mausoom later stated that the country’s borders will not be closed for tourism, despite a recent rise in cases, noting that only 0.08% of tourists tested positive for COVID-19 in January.
Overall population: 19.1 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 17.57
Key suppliers: 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.
Overall population: 1.641 million
Number of vaccines rolled out per 100 people: 10.16
Key suppliers: Pfizer/BioNTech, Sinopharm
Another Gulf nation leading the way in the race against COVID-19, Bahrain has now reported a rate of 6.44 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, with plans to eventually reach a daily rate of 10,000 individuals by springtime. 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 is also making the jabs much more accessible for citizens by allowing vaccine appointments to be booked through a mobile app – something that hasn’t yet been attempted by any other country. Users can even choose between receiving either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Sinopharm vaccination.
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.