Coronavirus: why vaccine inequality in Asia threatens the world’s recovery

Coronavirus: why vaccine inequality in Asia threatens the world’s recovery

The development the world spent much of 2020 waiting for – viable Covid-19 vaccines – is finally upon us. Yet in many countries the end to the pandemic remains out of sight.

That’s because getting access to a dose – or two – really depends on how rich a country a person lives in. In Singapore, for instance, all 5.7 million citizens, expatriates and migrant workers have been promised free vaccination by the third quarter of the year. The city state has already given 113,000 people – 2 in every hundred – their first shot of the vaccine.

Neighbouring Indonesia has also started giving shots, though its programme is at an earlier stage. About 368,000 of its 270 million population have been vaccinated, or 0.14 per 100, while India has administered 2 million shots to its 1.3 billion people, or 0.15 per 100.

Further behind still is the Philippines, where arguments are still raging about the cost of the vaccines and the first batch of vaccines is not due till next month.

But grimmest of all is the situation in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, where experts believe it could take more than five years to complete a mass vaccination programme.