Shocking mapping of our unvaccinated world

Thursday, October 20, 2022: In an article for Pandemic, Philip Schellekens, a Senior Advisor at World Bank Group, reports there are 2.5 billion unvaccinated people today. They have not had their first shot. A staggering 90 per cent live in the developing world and 71 per cent in the poorer half of the world. Tracking the COVID-19 unvaccinated across countries rich and poor highlights the regressive outcome of the global vaccination campaign so far. Schellekens argues why this outcome is deeply problematic by debunking four often-made claims against vaccinating the world.

  • Across World Bank income groups, we see large disparities that reflect the combined effects of population size and vaccination status. High Income Countries represent 0.3 billion (10 per cent) of the unvaccinated, Upper-Middle-Income Countries 0.5 billion (19 per cent), Lower-Middle-Income Countries 1.2 billion (49 per cent), and Low-Income Countries 0.5 billion (22 per cent).
  • The developing world accounts for 2.2 billion (90 per cent) of the unvaccinated. Note that the developing world is made up by UMICs, LMICs and LICs – in other words, all countries of the world except the rich ones or the HICs.
  • The poorer half of the world claims 1.7 billion (71 per cent) of the unvaccinated. Note that the poorer half of the world consist of the LMICs and LICs, which together represent just over 50 per cent of the global population.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa makes up 34 per cent of the world’s unvaccinated and South Asia 21 per cent.

The regressive outcome sometimes attracts the reaction of “so what?”, often asserting:

  • “People don’t want to get vaccinated”
  • “Developing countries don’t need vaccines because infection fatality risk is low thanks to their young demographics”
  • “It is too late as developing country populations are already mostly infected and have built their own immune defenses”
  • “Developing countries have other pressing health needs that require prioritization”.

But the pandemic is not over, despite wishful thinking and aspirational declarations to the contrary. The virus is still widely circulating and provoking outbursts that present large risks to vulnerable populations, including the unvaccinated and under-vaccinated. At present, primary vaccine coverage is still low in many countries of the world and booster coverage is even lower. Vaccination remains an important instrument to protect individuals from the risk of severe COVID.

This regressive outcome is an ignominy because all people deserve care, but clinical and public health deserts are all too common as are easily preventable deaths. But with struggle and effort, it is possible to bend the arc and overcome the “failures of imagination” so shockingly demonstrated in the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic so far, Shellekens eloquently asserts.

Read the full article with its effective graphics here.