Instagram, which once was studded with pictures of Hollywood and Bollywood stars enjoying a mask-free life in zero-COVID Australia and the Maldives, is now full of images of smiling Americans hugging friends with captions ‘just vaccinated’.
While snapshots from Paris boast of people smiling, masks-free in diners at cafes, in Seoul, people are repeatedly refreshing their apps to locate leftover doses, only to find nothing.
One Twitter user recently asked, “Does the leftover vaccine exist? Or has it disappeared in 0.001 seconds because it is like a ticket for the front-row seat of a K-pop idol concert?”
The United States, which has suffered far more grievous outbreaks with thousands of people dying every day, is now cramming aeroplanes for summer vacations. And while America is all set to celebrate its life on the other side of the tunnel, for many in Asia (4.6 billion people) this year might look a lot like the last, a repetitive cycle of uncertainty, restrictions and isolation.
Faltering Vaccines Roll-out
In southern China, the spread of the Delta variant has put Guangzhou, a major industrial capital, into a state of sudden lockdown.
Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia have also been put under partial to full lockdown after recent outbreaks, while Japan is dealing with a double-edged sword, the fourth round of infections and increasing fears of the viral disaster from the Olympics.
The United States and Europe bet big on vaccines, fast-tracking approval and spent billions to secure the first batches at the peak of its outbreak.
However, in places like Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, infection rates and deaths were kept relatively low. With the COVID-19 infection largely under control, there wasn’t any urgency to spend billions on then-unproven solutions. And many politicians in the Asia-Pacific region early on emphasized that there was little need to rush given the situation was ‘supposedly’ under control, which made all the difference.
“The perceived threat for the public was low and governments responded to the public’s perception of the threat.”, said Dr. C. Jason Wang, an associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine who has studied COVID-19 policies.
Even now, faltering vaccine rollouts and management across Asia have opened the doors for new COVID-19 variants despite lockdowns and restrictions, thereby inflicting new damage on economies and altering power dynamics between nations.
Shortage Of Vaccines
Virus-quashing strategies like border controls and restrictions can go only so far. “To end the pandemic, you need both defensive and offensive strategies. The offensive strategy is vaccines”, said Dr. Wang commented.
Speaking of which, China has administered 22 million shots on June 2, a record for the country. Japan has ramped up its effort and has opened large vaccination centres in Tokyo and Osaka and has expanded vaccine programs to workplaces and colleges.
In Taiwan, too, the inoculation drive got a boost after the Japanese government donated roughly 1.2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Although there’s been a spike in the inoculation drives in these countries, however with this sudden increase in demand, supply shortages have started to ease.
In Asia, about 20 percent of people have received the first dose of a vaccine, with Japan, at just 14 percent. While in France 45 percent, more than 50 percent in the United States and more than 60 percent in Britain.
Such a wide gulf in these figures is due to “The reality is that the places that are making vaccines are keeping them for themselves”, said Peter Collignon, a physician and professor of microbiology at the Australian National University who has worked for the World Health Organization.
For instance, in March 2021, Italy blocked the export of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia to curb its own raging outbreak while other shipments of the same were delayed because of manufacturing issues.
At the same time, the available vaccine doses are facing increased pressure to get inoculated before they expire. Indonesia has announced a fine of around $450 for refusing vaccines.
With all said and done, the future of Asia is pretty much the same and might remain constant for even the coming year given the current faulty system of vaccination drive.
COVID-19 cannot be defeated, at least not now and won’t be anytime soon if we continue to repeat the same mistakes over again.
Image credits: Google images
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