Champions of pandemic control, thanks to early prophylactic measures and strict fortnights for all entrants, including their nationals, from March-April 2020, most countries in the Asia-Pacific zone have missed the vaccination train, either they thought they had the luxury of waiting, or because of unforeseen mishaps – like betting too much on AstraZeneca for Australia and Thailand. Public opinions are also more reluctant there: 14% of South Koreans and 22% of Japanese said they were ready to be vaccinated in January according to an Ipsos survey, against 53% in the United States.
” It’s not [pour ces pays] vaccination or nothing. The countries that feel the most urgent need to speed up vaccinations are those that are suffering the most ”, noted in January Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, in the New York Times. Aggravating circumstance, several of them, hitherto largely spared, are experiencing for the first time an outbreak of contaminations – like Taiwan, with 671 new cases and 13 additional deaths on May 27, and Thailand, 5,386 new contaminations and 47 more dead that same day.
Strategies accused of slowness
These delays even affect the rich economies of the region, such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Australia, likely to be penalized by their closed borders as an exit from Covid-19 looms in the most vaccinated, like Israel (59% of people fully vaccinated) and the United States (40%). The Australian government has revised its vaccination targets a dozen times, not least because it relied on AstraZeneca, which must be made locally, but which was ultimately not recommended for those under 50 in April, following the onset of thrombosis. The strategy adopted is criticized for its slowness: 13.4% of the 25 million inhabitants have received a dose, but less than 2% of people are fully vaccinated.
China is a special case, where 546 million doses were administered, using seven types of local vaccines (only one, Sinopharm, being WHO approved) and great disparities – over 80% of Beijingers over 18-year-old would have received a first dose. The best off are tiny states like Singapore (28% of 5.7 million people fully vaccinated) and Mongolia. Nearly half of the 3 million Mongols are fully vaccinated, mainly thanks to Chinese and Russian vaccines.
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