Vaccination reluctance in Asia, lagging US and Europe as cases rise
A doctor walks past the banner announcing a Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Hyderabad, India on May 28, 2021.
Noah Seelam | AFP | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Asia-Pacific struggles to vaccinate its population as Covid-19 infections rise rapidly in many places in the region, some at record levels.
Many Asian governments have had problems obtaining vaccines, said Benjamin Cowling, a professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong. In addition, the initial success in containing the coronavirus in Asia may have made people consider vaccination with less urgency, he added.
“When we have had very few infections over the past year, there is a perception that Covid is not such a risk and we could stay at zero (case) if we’re just doing the face mask, social distancing – don’t rush to get the shot. So the reluctance has been a big problem, “Cowling, who heads the school’s epidemiology and biostatistics division, told CNBC,”Squawk Box Asia” Tuesday.
The region is currently experiencing a new wave of infections.
Asia-Pacific countries have collectively administered around 23.8 doses of the Covid vaccine per 100 people, according to CNBC analysis of data compiled by the statistics site Our World in Data as of June 1.
That’s well below the 61.4 doses per 100 people in North America and the 48.5 doses per 100 people in Europe, according to the data. Africa is the region with the slowest vaccination campaign, and only 2.5 doses were given per 100 people, according to the data.
Economists from the French bank Natixis monitored vaccine supplies and immunization progress across the Asia-Pacific region. They said in a note last month that while the shortage of supplies was a major factor in the region’s slow vaccination pace, few economies still face the problem today.
Economists have named Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam as those who “have still failed to acquire the doses needed for mass vaccination.”
“That said, public demand remains low,” said the Natixis report. “Skepticism about newly developed vaccines seems to be a common reason for reluctance globally. But it is even more so in Asia where more effective containment has led to a lesser sense of urgency. “
In Asia-Pacific, Mongolia and Singapore lead with around 97 and 69 total vaccinations per 100 people, respectively, according to Our World in Data.
Lagging behind, many border and emerging economies such as Vietnam and Afghanistan, the data showed.
According to a report by research firm Fitch Solutions, several frontier and emerging markets in Asia depend on COVAX – a global vaccine sharing initiative – for Covid vaccines.
But the supply of COVAX is now threatened because India has restricted vaccine exports, according to the report. India is home to vaccine maker Serum Institute India, which is one of the leading providers of COVID doses to the initiative.
If Indian exports do not resume soon, many low- and lower-middle-income countries dependent on COVAX will “see further delays” in their vaccination progress, warned Fitch Solutions.
Based on current vaccination rates, Natixis economists predict that only Singapore and mainland China will be able to vaccinate 70% of the population of the respective countries this year – a schedule similar to that of the United States and the United Kingdom. United.
This is the threshold that some medical experts say is necessary to achieve “Collective immunity”, this is when the virus no longer spreads quickly because most people are immune, due to vaccinations or after being infected.
Asian economies that still struggle to source vaccines may not reach that threshold until 2025 or beyond, economists said.
Slow progress in vaccination will affect some Asian economies more than others, Natixis economists said. They said the Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia have the biggest the urgency of vaccination due to mismanagement of the pandemic or high economic exposure to tourism.
“In short, Asia has gone from being a poster child in containment success to being lagging behind in the vaccination rollout,” Natixis said, adding that social distancing measures and cross-border restrictions would remain in place longer in the region in relation to the West.
“The wider economic reopening in the West which relies on a much faster vaccine deployment, especially for the US and increasingly for the EU, could add to the divergence, making Asia more fragile on the road to recovery and a less favorable option for investment. “