Omicron and Vaccine Inequality

Omicron The Rising COVID-19 Threat

The Omicron variant is rapidly advancing globally, The middle Road is sharing key policy enablers to fight COVID-19. Between 14 and 15 December 2021, 502 additional cases of the Omicron B.1.1.529 lineage variant were reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The United States and the United Kingdom have seen a surge in the COVID-19 cases due to the new variant. Pfizer/BioNTech’s recent announcement that three doses of its vaccine neutralize the Omicron B.1.1.529 lineage variant is positive news in extrapolating booster doses as measures to safeguard against the new variant. Recently, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and South Korea reduced the time lag for fully vaccinated people to take booster doses from six to three months. The United Kingdom reduced the booster dose to three months on the onset of Omicron. Boosters were introduced in the UK in September with either BNT162b2 or a half dose (50µg) of mRNA-1273 for adults over 50 years and those in risk groups, further expanded to all adults. Although no scientific consensus exists on this issue, WHO guidelines to immunize the vulnerable population first is a judicious step. At the same time, countries with significant populations could prioritize booster doses especially for those suffering from underlying conditions like non-communicable diseases and frontline health workers by offering doses if the vulnerable population has been fully vaccinated. 

Graph: The middle Road Data Source: Our World in Data

Non-communicable diseases include heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases. These diseases cause 70 percent of deaths worldwide. The statistics become even more skewed for low and medium countries as 85 percent of premature deaths (between ages 30-69) occur in these countries. The study by WHO covers 76 countries and recommends 16 Best Buy policies to fight these diseases and prevent diseases from COVID-19.

# Vaccine Inequality Hurts 

But vaccine inequality remains the most prominent issue in the world. Vaccines must be supplied at cost or minimal cost to countries in low-income countries. Another key policy enabler should be to reduce the time gap between the first two doses to two months for vulnerable groups or those above the age of 50 years. This will hasten the vaccination process, boost immunity as the Delta variant remains the dominant variant globally. Sub Saharan region and Afghanistan are critical as Afghanistan faces an economic collapse. The World Bank and other multilateral organizations are offering economic assistance to low and developing countries with clustered targeting, for example, Latin American countries like Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru are resourceful. Yet we are so far apart in vaccine distribution with poverty and loss of education rising exponentially among the underserved in the society. For economies like Peru that have a centralized healthcare system in Lima, Omicron’s high transmissibility would be troubling for the healthcare system. An outright temporary travel ban can help stem the dangers from the new SARS variant. Many advanced nations were rocked by protests against various measures to fully vaccinate the population, showcasing social disrupters within the civic societies.  It’s a clear indicator, the emergence of Omicron is a forceful nudge for advanced countries to foster measures to mitigate vaccine inequality for enabling social change and impact for the better.

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