The World and the vaxed (and the vexed): Part II

In the final part of our vaccine story that delves into the experiences of global citizens who have taken the jab and those waiting for their turn, we speak to respondents in China, Germany, Singapore, Sint Maarten (Netherlands Antilles), Switzerland, Australia, UAE, South Africa, United Kingdom and Belgium

Pooja Sarkar
Published: May 21, 2021 05:05:11 PM IST
Updated: May 24, 2021 03:00:57 PM IST

Vials of potential COVID-19 vaccine CoronaVac are seen on the production line at Sinovac Biotech production facility during a media tour on September 24, 2020 in Beijing, China; Image: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Different countries, different experiences. While most countries across the world started their vaccination programmes prioritising their frontline workers and the elderly, China was perhaps the only one that after medical frontline workers opened up its vaccination programme to people between 18-59 years and then those over 60.

But one learning that India can take from some of the countries is opening up the booking process through call centres. In a lot of countries, like say Switzerland, elderly persons have made their bookings by calling a call centre rather than by booking through an app. Only allowing the booking of vaccination slots through an online process raises the question of accessibility for all in a country with an internet penetration of roughly 50 percent, according to Statista, and a smartphone penetration of 42 percent as of 2020.  

Meanwhile, as some countries ease restrictions for those fully vaccinated others like Singapore are putting in place fresh restrictions as they see cases rise. In this second part of the series, Forbes India brings you stories of the experiences of those vaccinated, and those who are still waiting for their turn, from countries from Europe to Africa, and China to the UK. Click here to read Part I where we speak to people in New Zealand, France, Bangladesh, and more.

GUANGZHOU, CHINA


Vaccine status: Not yet taken the vaccine as they only started vaccinating foreigners a month ago. They started with medical frontline workers in July 2020 and then opened it up to people between 18-59 years. Unlike other countries, China opened up vaccination to its elderly (above 60 years) only from March.   

Cost of vaccine: Covered under Chinese social insurance

The process: For locals there are two apps for registration and for foreigners there is one app. A foreigner in Shanghai can register on the Jiankang Yun Health app and find a slot for vaccination. At the vaccination centre the nurse checks the documents and notes down the batch number. The batch number is then scanned on the computer which takes the photograph of the person and confirms all the personal details, and then the person is vaccinated.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: Not available, 43.6 crore doses administered

Status of Covid-19: While there is no lockdown in Guangzhou, everyone in the city has a code that they have to provide to enter any mall, shop, restaurant or even a residence area. Without the health code’s green go-ahead, one cannot enter any place. Travel to another city requires a negative Covid test report from a government hospital.

JENA, GERMANY


Vaccine status: Taken the first dose in the first week of May.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Germany listed four priority groups for vaccinations: First, the elderly above 80 years and medical professionals; the second, people aged between 70 and 80 years, younger people with medical conditions and those living with frontline workers. The third group includes non-medical frontline workers like kindergarten teachers, essential services workers and the fourth group includes everyone in the country. While Germany faced a vaccine shortage during the early phase of its inoculation process, it is now vaccinating the second and third category and plans to open up vaccination for all by June.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 37.87 percent 

Status of Covid-19: Banerjee says, “I have rarely met anyone over the last month.” Germany has restrictions on meeting people and depending upon infection cases (above 165 cases) all shops except grocery stores, pharmacies and drugstores, banks, bookstores and post offices are closed. Fully vaccinated and recovered citizens are exempted from restrictions but one has to check the city/ health website daily to assess if there is a complete shutdown for the day or if offices are open. In Jena and other municipalities in Germany it is mandatory to use N95 or FFP2 grade masks, cloth masks are not allowed in public places.

SINGAPORE


Vaccine status: Taken first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on April 4 and the second dose was administered 21 days post the first dose, on April 26.

Cost of vaccine: Free for all citizens and long-term pass holders.

The process: The government announces the category being vaccinated through the Ministry of Health website and via SMS updates to its citizens. Accordingly, the candidate must register for the vaccination and get an appointment. One can select the vaccine of choice (if available) and the venue.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 33.61 percent

Status of Covid-19: On May 18, Singapore registered 38 cases, one of its highest daily counts in the last eight months. It shut schools till May 28 and immediately put in place new restrictions which include only two people can meet outside from its previous eight till now. It has also closed restaurant dine-ins and gyms in the wake of new cases.

SINT MAARTEN, NETHERLANDS ANTILLES


Vaccine status: “Not taken as I had to travel immediately and that would have meant that I wouldn’t be around to take the second vaccine. But I had got my first appointment for April first week.”

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Vaccinations were opened first for frontline workers, government officials, senior citizens, people with underlying conditions and then to the rest. There are four vaccination centres and limited doses are administered per day to avoid overcrowding. The government has an app where everyone has to register. “It had taken 15 days to get my appointment. They are administering only the Pfizer vaccine,” says the store manager.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 35.69 percent

Status of Covid-19: There is no lockdown on the island and all businesses have started to open, life is back to normal now.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA


Vaccine status: Not taken as vaccination is currently open for second phase. “I will be eligible during the third phase which is expected to open up in late October.”

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: South Africa started its vaccination process in February by inoculating its frontline health workers. There are 1.25 million health workers in the country. The second phase, which started from May 17, includes senior citizens above 60 years, essential workers, people with co-morbidities and those who are in congregated settings. This second phase will go on from May 17 till mid-October, which is when the third phase will start, targeting people above 18.

J&J vaccines are manufactured in South Africa under a contract with Aspen Pharmacare at its facility in Port Elizabeth. Aspen will be manufacturing 100 million doses of J&J’s vaccines out of which 31 million will go to South Africa and the rest will go to the rest of Africa.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 0.88 percent

Status of Covid-19: Currently, the country only has a night curfew from 12 am to 4 am but outside of those restrictions people are free to move about and meet family and friends. The majority of people are still working from home. As cases reduced, the lockdown was eased but quite uniquely, South Africa’s lockdown imposed, among other things, a complete ban on sale of tobacco and alcohol. Those rules are now relaxed (the tobacco ban was lifted in August) and the alcohol ban continued intermittently till January.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND


Vaccine status: First dose of Pzifer vaccine taken on March 1 and the second dose on April 5.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: In the beginning there were vaccine shortages but over time the process has been streamlined, says Subramanian who received the dose in the first target group due to her co-morbidities. Switzerland started vaccinating its first target group from January 4 this year. In this category people above 75 years, people with high-risk chronic diseases regardless of age, people in retirement and care homes and their staff were vaccinated. It is currently vaccinating people with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. People can register by either calling the call centre or through an app.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 28.16 percent

Status of Covid-19: Switzerland has put in place various exemptions for fully vaccinated people which include allowing them to attend gatherings without masks with other fully vaccinated people. For gatherings, 10 people are allowed and the state is still following some strict measures to curtail the spread of the virus.

DUBAI, UAE


Vaccine status: First dose of Sinopharm taken in March.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: The ministry of health has an app for bookings, but Ansar booked vaccination slots for himself and his family at a private hospital. “They tested the blood pressure and asked about all the allergies one may have and then we were taken to another room where vaccination took place,” says Ansar. As per the protocol being observed globally, Ansar and his family were asked to wait for 30 minutes before they could leave the centre with their stamped documents. In the early days, when the likes of Ansar took the vaccine, UAE had access to only Sinopharm, now it has added Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 58.8 percent

Status of Covid-19: UAE has one of the highest vaccination percentages in the world and it has recently announced measures to open up the hospitality sector, allowing 10 diners at a table and weddings with a capacity of 100 guests. On May 20, it tested 2.44 lakh people and detected 1,401 cases for the day. It has 18,329 total active cases.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM


Vaccine status: “Not yet taken as they are currently vaccinating those over 50 years but we are hopeful that by June it will open up for others,” says Sudhanshu V.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: There is a government portal where one has to register. In Belgium everyone has an e-ID, so the government sends an invitation with a code and the date and time of the vaccination to a person’s registered address and via SMS or email after which they have to register, and if required, they can ask for a different slot. “Once you receive the invitation you can go and take the vaccine. They started with AstraZeneca but they are also giving Pfizer and the J&J vaccine,” says Sudhanshu. As with other countries it first inoculated its frontline workers and care givers and now are finishing vaccinating the elderly before they move to other age groups.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 13.1 percent

Status of Covid-19: As on May 18, Belgium has partly vaccinated 36.05 percent of its population and has fully vaccinated 13.1 percent. The country has been maintaining strict measures since last year: For example for shopping you can shop with maximum one person who must be living with you. In restaurants you are allowed to sit at a table in groups of maximum four people or with the people you live with.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA


Vaccine status: Not taken yet as vaccines have been rolled out only for people above the age of 60.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: The Australian government is vaccinating people in five phases. From May 3 it opened Phase 2a (third phase) vaccination for people above the age of 50. It currently continues to vaccinate people from the first two phases which include quarantine and border workers, frontline healthcare worker sub-groups, aged care and disability care staff.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: Percentage not available, doses given 31.8 lakh

Status of Covid-19: According to the latest data on the country’s website (May 18), the country had an estimated 119 active cases and had conducted 55,245 cases in the previous 24 hours. Bose says, “Today we are allowed to meet people, masks are not mandatory but recommended. Most of us are working from home on some days of the week and some days from office. Life is almost back to normal in my city.”

Sydney had a complete lockdown only in April and May 2020 and the restrictions were eased strategically one by one. Bose adds, “Since most of us are still not vaccinated we prefer working from home.”

LEAMINGTON SPA, ENGLAND


Vaccine status: Taken the first dose in February, followed by the second one in April.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Patel says, “Since I work for the NHS (National Health Service), we were on the priority list here in the UK to get vaccinated.” All professionals in the UK working in frontline healthcare and care homes were prioritised. The overall priority list was based on age groups, with the elderly and the most vulnerable with underlying health conditions prioritised. For all frontline healthcare professionals there was a special website where they could book appointments for vaccinations locally. Once the appointment was confirmed, Patel says, “We could report to the vaccination center with our ID cards and get ourselves vaccinated. The registration process was easy and simple with appointments available within 10 days of registration.” On May 19 England announced that it is expanding its vaccination process and people up to the age of 34 years will now be eligible for inoculation. They have been vaccinating people in the age group of 40-50 years.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17)*: 31.5 percent

Status of Covid-19: England is on its way to provide its citizens a vaccine passport through its NHS app by June. This will allow fully vaccinated persons to start traveling. Across the country people are under restrictions and are working from home. While people are now allowed to meet friends outside of home, the number of people should not exceed six. “We have seen two waves of Covid-19 here in the UK and some of the restrictions were eased in between those two waves. Currently, we are seeing a phased return to normalcy here in the UK,” Patel adds.

(Benu Joshi Routh contributed to the story)

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