More than 345 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide in the three months since mass inoculation began in December, but there is still a huge disparity in the vaccination rates between countries.
Israel continues to stand out in the global vaccination race, with 58 percent of its population having received at least one dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, and 46 percent having received both required doses. Despite a slow start, Chile is now making swift progress, with at least a quarter of its population having received at least one dose.
Despite some initial criticism of Britain’s decision to delay second doses until 12 weeks after the first, the strategy seems to be paying off, as more than a third of its population has received at least one dose, far ahead of any of its European counterparts. Studies appear to have vindicated Britain’s decision after finding a single dose could avert most coronavirus-related hospitalizations.
Some of the starkest differences can be found when comparing continents. In North America, 18 doses have been administered for every 100 people, while in South America, there have been just 4.9 vaccinations per 100 people amid growing outbreaks across much of the continent. Many African nations have yet to start vaccinations, with less than one dose administered across the continent per 100 people.
Until the bulk of the world’s population has been immunized, the virus will continue to evolve into variants that are more contagious, more deadly or that dodge the immune response at least in part, experts have warned. A global program led by the World Health Organization and other groups has made a few million doses of Covid-19 vaccines available to some African countries, but it is unlikely to have enough doses for the rest of the world before 2024.
Coronavirus cases are trending downward across the United States as the country’s vaccine rollout picks up speed. But despite the large drop in new infections since early this year, the U.S. death rate remains at nearly 1,500 people every day. That number still exceeds the summer peak, when patients filled Sun Belt hospitals and outbreaks in states that reopened early drove record numbers of cases, though daily deaths nationwide remained lower than the first surge last spring. The number of new reported cases per day remains nearly as high as the summer record.
BEIJING — China raised the stakes in the international vaccine competition on Saturday, saying that foreigners wishing to enter the Chinese mainland from Hong Kong will face fewer paperwork requirements if they are inoculated with Chinese-made coronavirus vaccines.
The policy announcement, which covers foreigners applying for visas in the Chinese territory, comes a day after the United States, India, Japan and Australia announced plans to provide vaccines more widely to other countries. The four so-called Quad powers promised to help finance the production in India of at least a billion doses of coronavirus vaccine by the end of next year.
China is trying to increase the international appeal of its shots, even as scientists and foreign governments urge Chinese vaccine makers to be more transparent with their clinical trial data. Guo Weimin, a Chinese government spokesman, said that China had sent vaccines to 69 countries by the end of February and begun commercial exports to 28 countries.
Chinese state media organizations have also begun a misinformation campaign that questions the safety of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots and promotes Chinese vaccines as better alternatives.
Chinese-made vaccines have not yet been approved by most regulators in the West, though Hungary has agreed to buy five million doses. China has not yet approved the manufacture or distribution of foreign vaccines within its borders either.
This week, China introduced an international electronic passport for its citizens that shows whether a traveler has been vaccinated against the coronavirus. But it was not immediately clear how much of a difference Saturday’s policy announcement by the Chinese Foreign Ministry would make for foreigners living in Hong Kong, given that China has been issuing almost no visas lately.
In addition, Hong Kong’s borders have been closed to nonresidents for nearly a year. So the new policy will not help many foreigners in other countries who want to return to mainland China for work or family reasons.
The Hong Kong government allows residents to choose between the Sinovac vaccine from mainland China and a version of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that it imported from Germany. The announcement on Saturday did not specify whether people in Hong Kong who have already received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot would need to be vaccinated again with the Sinovac product.
Alan Beebe, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, said that border restrictions had become the biggest concern for multinationals doing business in the country, and he questioned the need for restricting entry based on which vaccine was chosen by travelers.
“It’s not clear to us,” he said, “what is the difference between having an imported vaccine and one that is produced in China.”
Liu Yicontributed research.
The organizers of a vigil for Sarah Everard, 33, who went missing in London last week and whose body was identified on Friday, said on Saturday that a gathering that was canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions would go ahead, but virtually or on people’s doorsteps.
“This evening at 9:30 p.m. we will be joining people around the country in a doorstep vigil, standing on our doorsteps and shining a light — a candle, a torch, a phone — to remember Sarah Everard and all women affected by and lost to violence,” the organizers of the event, Reclaim These Streets, said on Twitter.
Ms. Everard’s case has set off an outpouring of solidarity and anger in Britain this week.
Lawmakers, activists and women’s rights organizations had called for a gathering in Clapham Common, the South London park near where Ms. Everard was last seen alive, to demand actions to address violence against women and to pay tribute to her.
A court had ruled on Friday that the gathering could be deemed unlawful because of Covid-19 restrictions, and the police urged prospective attendees to stay at home.
In just days, Ms. Everard’s case has come to symbolize a longstanding problem that many women said plagues Britain and could no longer be ignored: that at home or in public spaces, many women are not safe.
Thousands of them have their own stories of street harassment and assault. Ms. Everard was last seen on CCTV at around 9.30 p.m. on March 3 while walking home from a friend’s house.
Her family described her as “a shining example to us all” who was “kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable.”
“Sarah was bright and beautiful — a wonderful daughter and sister,” they added.
A police officer, Wayne Couzens, was charged with kidnapping and murdering Ms. Everard, the police said late Friday. Mr. Couzens, 48, appeared in court on Saturday.
While the authorities have tried to reassure the public by pointing out that abductions in London are rare, the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has also acknowledged that its streets are not safe enough. Many have said that as lockdown restrictions have emptied the country’s streets, people have felt unsafe walking in public.
More than 125,000 people have died of the coronavirus in Britain, but England is gradually coming out of a monthslong lockdown, starting this week with the reopening of schools, and gatherings of two people outside are now allowed. The authorities scrambled to put tight restrictions in place this year after the discovery of a more contagious variant in the country.
The organizers of the vigil, named Reclaim These Streets, said on Saturday morning that they had suggested ideas like splitting the gathering in Clapham Common into several time slots to find a balance between freedom of assembly and safety measures.
“We have been very disappointed that given the many opportunities to engage with organizers constructively, the Met Police have been unwilling to commit to anything,” they said in a statement in reference to the city’s Metropolitan Police.
The organizers said they had been told that they faced a fine of 10,000 pounds ($14,000) if they went ahead with the vigil. Instead, they set up a fund-raiser to support women’s causes around Britain, and moved ahead with the new approach, a doorstep vigil.
“We are clear that women’s voices will not be silenced, now or ever,” they said.
what we learned
A handful of countries in Europe are shying away from the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford. Demark, Norway and Iceland said Thursday they would halt its use while European drug regulators examine the possibility of a link to blood-clotting issues. They emphasized that they were just being cautious and that there is no evidence of any causal link, and global health authorities confirmed support for the vaccine.
Bulgaria joined those countries on Friday, saying it would temporarily suspend inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine after the death of a woman a day after she received a shot (her autopsy found no traces of blood clots). And Thailand delayed its rollout of the vaccine, which was to begin Friday. The Democratic Republic of Congo has also delayed its rollout, Reuters reported.
Germany, France, Poland and Nigeria have said they would continue to administer the vaccine.
A senior adviser to the World Health Organization, Bruce Aylward, stressed in a news briefing on Friday that the W.H.O. had “great confidence” in AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
The vaccine has been authorized for use in more than 70 countries, but not the United States, where it is still going through clinical trials.
A shortfall in the supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine has fueled tensions within Europe and with European Union allies. AstraZeneca has asked the Biden administration to let it send unused American doses to the E.U.
Here’s what else were learned this week:
A new study found that older people managed to stay happier during the pandemic. During the study, those over 50 — independent of income or education, in national samples — experienced more positive emotions in a given day and fewer negative ones. The results of the study also helped answer an age old question: Do people somehow develop better coping skills as they age? They seem to.
An analysis of electronic medical records in California found that nearly a third of people who experience long-term symptoms from the coronavirus had not had any symptoms from their initial coronavirus infection through the 10 days after they tested positive.
Of over 200,000 people who were tested in city school buildings in New York City from October to December, only .4 percent of tests came back positive for the coronavirus, a remarkably lower virus transmission compared with the citywide rate of positive test results. Even when cases were detected, only .5 percent of school-based contacts who quarantined contracted the virus.
When coronavirus vaccines first became available, state health officials in Virginia turned to software recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to schedule appointments. But people complained that the software, called VAMS, was too confusing for older adults to use.
So the state switched to another system, PrepMod — but that had problems, too. Links sent to seniors for their appointments were reusable and found their way to Facebook, leading to one vaccination event in Richmond with dozens of overbookings. Some of those people threatened health care workers when they were turned away.
“It was a nightmare scenario,” said Ruth Morrison, the policy director for the Richmond and Henrico County health district. “People showing up confused, irate, thinking they had an appointment.”
State and local health departments around the country continue to face delays dispensing shots, in part because flaws remain in the appointment software tools like those used in Richmond. The problems threaten to slow the vaccine rollout even as supplies and distribution are picking up quickly across the country.
Large software systems have often been problematic for companies and governments. HealthCare.gov, a site released after the Affordable Care Act, crashed early on. But the issues with the vaccine sites have an added sense of urgency because health officials are trying to vaccinate as many people as possible, as fast as possible.
President Biden said that his administration would send out technical teams to help states improve their websites. He also said the federal government would open a website by May 1 that would allow Americans to find out where the vaccine is available.