The answer will decide not only who survives, but also the sort of world they will inherit
The urgency of vaccination against covid-19 is growing by the day. Two new variants of the virus, spotted in Britain and South Africa, are spreading around the world (see article). Although they do not seem to be more deadly, they are a lot more contagious, threatening to overwhelm hospitals with patients too numerous to be treated.
Salvation lies in rapid vaccination. However, vaccines will remain scarce throughout 2021, even as deaths mount along with the sense that protection lies tantalisingly out of reach for billions of people (see Briefing). Getting the details right could save hundreds of thousands of lives. Getting them wrong will shatter people’s faith in their governments, in the benefits of public health and in the world’s ability to work together.
Start with government, where accusations have already begun to fly. Although Israel had inoculated 16% of its people by January 5th, France managed just 0.01% and the Netherlands has just started. In Spain Madrid used 6% of the vials it had received; the region of Asturias administered over 80%. In America, by January 7th, the federal government had shipped 17.3m doses, well short of its target. Only 5.3m people had received shots.