The World and the vaxed (and the vexed)

As India lays out an ambitious vaccine programme till the year-end, Forbes India delves into the experiences of global citizens who have taken the jab and of those waiting for their turn

Pooja Sarkar
Published: May 19, 2021 03:24:16 PM IST
Updated: May 24, 2021 03:02:14 PM IST

A medical worker from a mobile vaccination team packs boxes of the Chinese Sinovac Coronavac vaccine into a temperature controlled transportation case ahead of a house call house in Istanbul, Turkey

Image: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Vaccinating the second-most populous country in the world was going to be a Herculean task, but the second wave, coupled with a muddled policy, may have set India back, at least for now. As of May 17, 10.4 percent of India’s 1.38 billion population had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data, a scientific online publication; the corresponding figures for the US and the European Union were 47.2 percent and 32 percent, respectively. The global inequity in Covid-19 vaccinations is evident when you consider that India’s share of 10.4 percent is higher than that of people globally who have been able to access the first jab: 9.1 percent. 

India has vaccinated its citizens in phases, but since it announced that anyone above 18 years can get vaccinated from May 1, people are playing fastest finger first to find a slot online. While vaccines are free in government-run hospitals, private hospitals are allowed to charge Rs250 for a dose. That vaccine slots have to be booked online raises the question of accessibility for all in a country with internet penetration of roughly 50 percent, according to Statista, and smartphone penetration of 42 percent as of 2020. The biggest problem currently, however, is the supply of vaccines to cover all citizens, including roughly 800 million residing in non-urban areas. Since the vaccination programme began in mid-January, the country has relied on the duopoly of Serum Institute of India’s Covishield and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin; Russia’s Sputnik V is set to be the third vaccine available to Indian citizens. Although the government has responded with an ambitious plan to provide over 2 billion doses by year-end to cover the entire adult population, the big questions are: Will we see a third wave before that? And can that target be achieved?             

Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt from how a few other countries went about vaccinating their citizens. In the first of a three part series, Forbes India reached out to people from various corners of the world to understand how easy or difficult it was for them to get immunised. In many cases, a vaccine was far out of reach and many of these countries—or at least parts of them—are following limited-to-strict lockdowns to curb rising cases. From the Dutch side of the Caribbean island Saint Maarten to New Zealand, France and Bangladesh, Forbes India brings you stories of the experiences of those vaccinated, and those who are still waiting for their turn.  

DHAKA, BANGLADESH

Vaccine status: First dose in February 

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Sinha managed the process for her health workers directly with the government as medical frontline workers were first in the vaccination priority list.

Status of vaccination programme: To date, the government has been vaccinating its population with Covishield, but it is expecting to launch Sinopharm (a Chinese Covid-19 vaccine) and Sputnik in limited quantities. According to Sinha, fewer than 5.5 million Bangladeshis have been vaccinated and she believes at the current rate, only 10 percent of the country will be vaccinated by year-end.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17*): 3.5 percent

Status of Covid-19 in that city/country: Bangladesh had 45,709 active cases as of May 18; to date, it has recorded total cases of 7.82 lakh. Dhaka is under limited lockdown.                                                            

*Source: Our World in Data

FRANCE 


Vaccine status: First dose on May 7 

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: “It’s an online process that is not an easy system to navigate (maybe because we are not native French speaking!). We registered for Pfizer before-hand,” says Foster.

Status of vaccination programme: Vaccination has been a slow process in France and now it is open for people aged above 55. Those over 50 with a comorbidity (certified by a doctor’s note), people of any age with one of the high-risk conditions listed by the government and workers in certain high-risk professions can get vaccinated.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 16*): 30.1 percent

Status of Covid-19: As of May 17, France had 18.11 lakh active cases and the country was under lockdown conditions. Movement restrictions were lifted on May 3. In April, people were allowed to travel 10 km from home and only for essential journeys. If one needed to travel more than 10 km, they had to fill an ‘attestation’ form, stating the essential reasons (medical treatment, travelling for business or work etc). All restaurants, bars, cafes, non-essential retail, all entertainment, sports grounds, gyms are closed. Some more restrictions will be lifted on May 19, but not all. 

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND


Vaccine status: Not taken; will be vaccinated by end of May as per schedule, given his age and profession

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: As of May 18, 321,502 first doses have been administered in New Zealand apart from 152,933 second doses. Prabhu says the ministry of health contacts people when they are scheduled to get inoculated. 

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 11*): 5.6 percent

Status of Covid-19: Prabhu says currently they are not in lockdown; life is normal with everyone working from office. During the last weekend of April, Auckland hosted a music concert with 50,000 people in attendance. As of May 17, New Zealand had 19 active cases in the country. 

NEWARK, UNITED STATES 


Vaccine status: Single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in April

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: There is a dedicated link to register and book the vaccine appointment. Once the online registration is done, on the day of vaccination, one has to get verified with a photo identity card before getting inoculated at a vaccination booth. After vaccination, people have to wait for 15 minutes for ‘observation’ in a different room.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17*): 36.8 percent

Status of Covid-19: Delaware did not see any strict lockdown restrictions. Things are mostly open with strict rules of wearing masks, ensuring proper sanitisation and maintaining a distance of six feet. Offices are expected to start with nearly 50 percent capacity from July 2021. Outside gatherings are restricted to 10 in a group.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE)


Vaccine Status: Sinopharm in February

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Vaccines were easily available… we got ours through corporate booking where nearly 800 people were vaccinated in five hours. Dubai has allowed other vaccines to be used from March, including Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V. After vaccinating its health care and frontline workers in the first round, it opened up the process for the elderly, people with families and then bachelors.

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

Status of Covid-19: On May 17, Dubai relaxed its restrictions and allowed hotels to operate in full capacity apart from allowing concerts and sports events which can be attended only by those who are vaccinated. The UAE previously allowed get-togethers with less than 30 people who had tested ‘negative’ after an RT-PCR test. According to Worldometer, the UAE has 18,275 active cases as on May 17.

# Reuters data

HONG KONG 


Vaccine status: Not taken; planning to get vaccinated in 2-3 weeks. He’s contemplating which vaccine will be helpful when it comes to a vaccine passport.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: Anyone aged above 16 can get vaccinated, with the government pushing people to get inoculated on priority. There are two vaccines to choose from: BioNTech and Sinovac. Frontline workers were earlier given priority, but now people can sign up online and show up at the designated vaccination centres.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17*):15.8 percent

Status of Covid-19: As of May 18, Hong Kong has 82 active cases and while the state never went under strict lockdown, it has restrictions on dining hours of 10 pm. From May, bars have been allowed to open, but there is a debate on whether a restaurant/entertainment venue/bar can be open till midnight or 2 am, depending on the vaccination status of its employees and clients. 

ISTANBUL, TURKEY


Vaccine status: Not taken; at the moment, people aged above 55 and their spouses, those with co-morbidity, health care workers, tourism professionals are being vaccinated. “My number will probably come by the end of the year as I am in my 30s,” says the engineer.

Cost of vaccine: Free

The process: People are calling the call centre of the government health system and checking their status online. The country is administering Pfizer-BioNTech (as the founders of BioNTech are Turkish), Sinovac and Sputnik V.

Share of citizens who have received at least one dose (as of May 17*): 17.8 percent

Status of Covid-19: Turkey announced a curfew from April 29 to May 17. There are strict restrictions on when people can go out to buy groceries and essentials. The country had 6.08 lakh active cases as of May 17. 

(This is the first part of the series. In the second part tomorrow, Forbes India speaks to citizens from China, Singapore, Germany, Netherland Antilles [Sint Maarten], Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom)

Click here to see Forbes India's comprehensive coverage on the Covid-19 situation and its impact on life, business and the economy​

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