Rich countries are stockpiling coronavirus vaccines and poor nations are lagging behind

Millions of coronavirus vaccinations have already been administered globally as countries race to fortify themselves against the global pandemic. 

But as the scramble to secure vaccines intensifies, there are fears that poorer countries will miss out as richer nations stockpile crucial supplies. 

For two months, the US-based Duke University Global Health Innovation Centre has been keeping track of which countries are buying vaccines and comparing these figures with where disease burden is the greatest.

The centre’s research shows that, of the 7 billion doses bought world wide, more than 4 billion have been snapped up by high-income countries.

A woman opens her mouth for a heath worker to collect a sample for coronavirus testing in South Africa.In stark comparison, low-income nations have secured just 270 million doses.

The global COVAX initiative, which uses pooled funding to buy vaccines for poorer countries, has purchased an addition 1.07 billion doses. 

In other words, rich countries which account for around just 14 per cent of the world’s population have secured 53 per cent of doses for the most promising vaccines.

“All the data would show you that equitable distribution of vaccines line up with best results from a health, economic and humanitarian perspectives but it really goes against what many countries are starting to do and what their populations are demanding which is trying to get as many vaccines for themselves as quickly as possible,” said Krishna Udayakumar, the founding director of Duke’s Global Health Innovation Centre. 

Canada has ordered the most vaccines (362 million) relative to its population, enough to jab each Canadian five times.

New Zealand has ordered enough (18.32 million) to vaccinate its people three times, but it plans to give free doses to neighbouring Pacific Island nations.

The US will have enough doses (1.2 billion) to vaccinate their population twice over.

Australia has enough (114.8 million) to give citizens at least four doses each.

Meanwhile the African Union has ordered less than half of what’s needed to reach herd immunity – or just 670 million doses.

Latin American countries – excluding Brazil – only have 150 million doses, which would supply one jab each for less than half the population. 

“Demand has greatly outstripped supply so in a scenario like that you will generally find the powerful and most richest countries getting to the front of the queue quickest,” said global health researcher Michael Head.

Another issue is that vaccines aren’t going to countries where the infection rate is highest.

For example – Japan, Australia and Canada have reserved 1.03 billion doses, but the three countries combined account for less than 1 per cent of all current COVID-19 cases.

“It does look like low and middle income countries are going to be waiting 2, 3, 4 years to reach herd immunity through vaccination,” Dr Udayakumar said.

He predicts the next test of global equity that will emerge over the coming months is how quickly richer nations will donate excess doses to poorer nations.

“Norway is the only country that has come out and said they will donate doses in parallel to vaccinating their own populations,” he said.

“So the question becomes – are high income countries willing to donate to make sure that frontline health workers and vulnerable populations in low and middle income countries actually get access to vaccines before low risk populations like healthy young adults in their own countries do.”

While vaccine nationalism appears to be gaining traction around the world, Dr Udayakumar said it’s in the interest of every person that vaccine globalism becomes the priority.

“What we’re already starting to see with new variants is that they may be less susceptible to our current vaccines so to the extent that the virus continues anywhere in the world it really poses a threat for all of us even those who have vaccinated,” he said. 

“Our hope is that by pointing this out as quickly and as repeatedly as we can, we can create more of a semblance of a clear global and coordinated response before we start to see things that look like the wild west of vaccines.”

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Capital Lagging In Sanctioning Applications: City vendors who applied under PM scheme waiting for loans to clear

Written by Ananya Tiwari
| New Delhi |

September 12, 2020 5:58:52 am

At Sarojini Nagar Market. Vendors hope footfall will increase now that Metro has reopened. (Express Photo)

Vendors in Delhi who applied for the PM Street Vendor’s Atma Nirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) loan of Rs 10,000 are complaining that the amount has not been disbursed to their accounts weeks after their applications were cleared.

Manju (52), secretary of the Gujarati Market Welfare Association at Janpath, said, “Most of the vendors applied 10-15 days ago and their applications have been cleared. But none of us have received anything.”

Ever since the lockdown, the vendor market has been hit by lack of tourism. “It is difficult for us to even manage our household expenses. Very few customers are buying anything,” Manju said.

Kanchan Devi (45), president of the Sarojini Nagar vendor market, said, “It has been around a month since many of us applied. None of us have received the loan.”

Om Dutt (55), a vendor from Sarojini Nagar market, told The Indian Express, “I submitted my application in August but I have not received any money so far. I am still using money I earned before the lockdown. It has been months. Thankfully, Metro services have resumed, so more people are coming to the market.”

Abhay Jain, director of the enforcement department of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), told The Indian Express, “The urban local bodies are only involved in the process of issuance of letters of recommendations as many vendors do not have a legitimate vending ID or receipts. We have processed all these LORs, and it is the lending institutions which are to disburse the loans.”

Sanjay Kumar, joint secretary at the ministry of housing and urban affairs, said, “Delhi needs to pick up. In some states, performance is exceptionally good. For example, MP is commemorating disbursement of 1 lakh loans.”

As of Monday, the North, South and East MCDs have received 1,743, 2,719 and 1,212 loan applications, of which 208, 187 and 64 respectively have been sanctioned. The New Delhi Municipal Council and the Delhi Cantonment Board have received 453 and 125 loan applications, of which 35 and 7 respectively have been sanctioned.

Madhya Pradesh tops the list of best performing states, where 1,06,668 of 2,67,847 applications have been sanctioned. Indore tops the city rankings with 17,088 applications, of which 8,310 have been sanctioned. Delhi does not appear in top-25 city or state rankings.

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Demand for gender dysphoria services is surging, but advocates say supply is lagging

Advocates for Australia’s transgender, non-binary and gender diverse children say access to psychologists and hormone therapy is becoming increasingly difficult, leaving those affected at risk of severe mental health issues.

In South Australia, the number of young people trying to access gender dysphoria services has doubled in three years, and the average wait time for an initial psychiatric appointment at the state’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital is now 15 months.

That has prompted the hospital to start outsourcing urgent referrals to private psychologists and community mental health services.

The state’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Helen Connolly, said she was becoming increasingly concerned by the lack of action on gender dysphoria services.

Gender dysphoria is a condition in which a person experiences extreme distress due to the mismatch between their biological sex and gender identity.

“In the timescale of a child’s life, 12 months is a long time, it’s a long time developmentally — it’s a long time in terms of relationships — so anything that slows this process of getting a response is actually pretty serious,” Ms Connolly said.

“Practitioners and doctors have told me they used to get a few referrals a year. They’re now getting hundreds of referrals.

Commissioner for Children and Young People Helen Connolly.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

Ms Connolly acknowledged the topic was divisive, but said it was crucial that those affected got the support they needed.

“These issues are controversial — they bring out people who have opinions not necessarily based on fact or medical evidence — but let’s leave it to the experts: they can make those clinical decisions about what’s needed for this particular child,” she said.

“I need to ensure [children] have got a system they can access to actually get that advice.”

‘We just want to be ourselves’

Adelaide’s Olivia Purdie, who is non-binary and was recently featured on the ABC’s Four Corners program, was diagnosed with gender dysphoria at the age of nine.

The 12-year-old attends the Women’s and Children’s Hospital every few months to medically delay puberty.

Olivia, who does not use pronouns, said staff were supportive but accessing the services had been difficult.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a girl, a boy, transgender, non-binary. You can be whatever you want, we just want to be ourselves,” Olivia said.

“A lot of kids attempt suicide because the parents don’t know what’s happening — they’re not listening because there’s no sustainable information about it and they just need a safe space.”

South Australia does not have a dedicated public gender dysphoria clinic offering medical treatment options.

The ABC understands many gender-diverse young people used to travel to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to access services but, with demand increasing in that state, interstate referrals are no longer accepted.

Additionally, because of the coronavirus pandemic, only essential travellers and people who live within 40 kilometres of the border are allowed into South Australia from Victoria.

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Olivia’s mother Jane Russo tells Four Corners about the difficult decision to put Olivia on puberty-suppressing injections. (Four Corners)

Current services underfunded: mother

Olivia’s mother, Jane Russo, said building a gender clinic was long overdue and the current services were severely underfunded, with appointments often being cancelled or postponed due to resourcing restraints.

She said SA Health had taken little action, despite drafting a business case to build a gender dysphoria clinic two years ago.

“These services are critical for families in South Australia — it’s not a fad, it’s not going to go away. Young people need the support particularly around their mental health,” she said.

“A clinic and meeting the needs of gender-diverse young people I think is going to help that and mitigate hopefully a lot of the anxiety young people have, meaning mental health is going to be a lot better.

“That’s the frustrating bit, that it’s been going for so long — obviously a need has been identified, the need is there, we know that wait times have been getting steadily longer.

“They’ve got an idea of the need so we need to get on with it.”

Dog Tito with Jane Russo and Olivia Purdie
Tito, the family dog, with Olivia Purdie and Jane Russo.(ABC News: Claire Campbell)

Ms Russo’s concerns are echoed by the Commissioner for Children and Young People, who wants a specific gender dysphoria clinic to be established at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, similar to what exists in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

“We’re the state that doesn’t have a discrete gender clinic at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital,” Ms Connolly said.

“We’ve got some great practitioners who are doing great work with huge waiting lists, but they’re doing it as individuals and we’re saying we need a system response, we need a clinic and it needs to be staffed.”

SA Health looking at business case

In a statement, SA Health said it was reviewing a business case for an “enhanced” gender service.

It also acknowledged it had seen a rise in referrals “due to a better understanding of gender diversity” and that the increased demand was being seen across Australia.

A large multi-storey building on a sloping city street
The Women’s and Children’s Hospital in North Adelaide.(ABC News: Eugene Boisvert)

There are 100 patients accessing gender dysphoria services at the hospital, compared with 59 patients in 2017.

“Our psychiatrists and paediatricians work collaboratively to ensure that decisions about treatment support the young person’s needs,” SA Health said.

“We recognise that there is a greater demand for gender dysphoria services in South Australia.”

For Olivia Purdie, a gender clinic would help improve mental and physical health for the 12-year-old and other gender-diverse young people.

“With a clinic there’s also going to be more research which means less not knowing about it and it just becomes a normal thing,” Olivia said.

“They might be getting bullied or ‘down-shamed’ at school because they’re different and it could actually [help them] make trustworthy proper friends who actually care about them and understand them.”

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