The Covid-19 paradox between Europe and Asia

Despite the abundance of vaccines, Europe is the only place in the world that has continuously increased nCoV cases, while Asia has maintained a downward trend thanks to the acceleration of vaccination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the number of nCoV cases in Europe increased by 11% last week and this is the only place in the world where the curve of the epidemic has continuously increased from mid-October until now. WHO warns of the risk of Europe recording an additional 700,000 deaths from Covid-19 between now and early 2022, if European authorities do not take drastic action soon.

Unlike many other regions of the world that are struggling to find a vaccine supply, wealthy European countries are seen as “swimming in vaccines”. A billion doses of the vaccine have been administered across the continent over the past year, but WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge still warns that “Covid-19 is still strangling” countries here.

Medical experts believe that the cause of this paradox in Europe is a wave of dangerous anti-vaccination, people are slow to receive booster shots and immunity thanks to vaccination declines over time, while anti-vaccination measures translation is eased quickly. Vaccination rates also vary widely between Eastern and Western European countries.

Protest against anti-epidemic measures in Belgium on November 21 with thousands of participants.  Photo: AP.

Protest against the restrictive measures against the epidemic in Belgium on November 21. Photo: AP.

This fall’s outbreak has pushed hospital systems in many countries in Central and Eastern Europe, where vaccination rates are low, to the brink of collapse, notably in Ukraine, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Russia continues to be the country with the highest number of Covid-19 deaths in Europe with more than 267,000 cases, out of a total of nearly 9.4 million infections. Despite convincing efforts from President Vladimir Putin, by November 24, only 37.2% of the Russian population had received two doses of the vaccine.

In Western Europe, Germany is on track to surpass 100,000 deaths this week, despite being one of the continent’s models of effective epidemic control.

The epidemic situation at a red alert level has forced Austria, the Netherlands and Belgium in succession to issue strict epidemiological control measures last week, including restrictions targeting the population that refuses to be vaccinated. . Some German politicians have begun to consider making vaccination mandatory so that people can go to work, school and travel normally.

In Russia, which is actively supplying the Sputnik V vaccine, a series of leading doctors in the country recently had to send an open letter asking famous singers and actors to reject vaccines to hospitals for Covid-19 treatment. to see firsthand the overload situation.

Meanwhile, Germany struggled with the Covid-19 wave between the post-election transition of power and the local anti-epidemic regulations, when many states tightened controls, but some wanted to easing.

While the ruling coalition of the new Prime Minister Olaf Scholz wants to impose mandatory vaccinations for some professions or the entire population, some politicians have expressed support for easing the anti-epidemic to win the hearts of voters. for restrictive measures.

“No one has been brave enough to introduce restrictive measures due to fear of losing public support. We are stuck in the current situation due to lack of leadership,” said Dr. Uwe Janssens, head of the department of care. Especially at St. Antonius of Eschweiler, in the state of Cologne, said.

Contrary to Europe, the Covid-19 situation in Asia is a completely different picture. The region has maintained a low infection rate and gradually opened up to the “new normal”. Southeast Asia and the Middle East recorded an 11% and 9% drop in cases in the past week, respectively, according to the WHO.

Although vaccination campaigns in some Asian countries started after Europe and the US, partly due to difficulty in accessing supplies, the pace of vaccination deployment in the region has accelerated in recent months. The spike in infections and deaths in India, the US and Europe has served as a wake-up call, helping Asians shake off vaccine skepticism.

According to experts, Asia – Pacific is a region that has a lot of experience in dealing with infectious diseases such as SARS, and knows how to adjust its vaccine procurement program to adapt well to the market.

Learning from the early stages of vaccine shortages due to inequality in the global supply chain, Asian countries have proactively minimized the risk of supply disruptions by ordering from many manufacturers and distributors. . After the Covid-19 wave broke out strongly in the middle of this year due to low vaccine coverage, the Asia-Pacific region is hoping to realize the goal of “going back first” in the vaccination campaign.

South Korean medical staff instruct people to take tests in Seoul on November 10.  Photo: Reuters.

South Korean medical staff instruct people to take tests in Seoul on November 10. Photo: Reuters.

Cambodia is a country that deploys vaccination earlier than the general level in the region, thanks to China’s aid vaccine and supply from the Covax initiative. This country started a nationwide vaccination campaign from February 10, about two months later than the US and UK.

By early May, about 11% of Cambodia’s 16 million people had received at least one shot, half the rate of vaccination in the US and a third of the rate of deployment in the UK in the same three-month time frame.

However, Cambodia accelerated its vaccination campaign as it witnessed the devastation of the second Covid-19 wave in India. By mid-November, Cambodia has had two doses of vaccine for 78% of the population and is expanding vaccination coverage to children 3-4 years old.

Another successful vaccination model in Asia is Japan. The Japanese government started a nationwide vaccination campaign in mid-February, but the initial pace of deployment was slow due to supply difficulties.

The situation improved after then-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga mobilized military medical forces to reinforce vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka. Japan also adjusted the legal framework, creating conditions for dentists, emergency workers and laboratory technicians to participate in vaccination for people.

Vaccination rate in Japan in July reached 1.5 million shots/day. By mid-November, the number of people who received two injections nationwide reached 76% of the population.

According to Makoto Shimoaraiso, a member of the government working group on Covid-19 response, people’s awareness has made a great contribution to the current success. The Japanese have put aside their fear of vaccines after seeing the number of Covid-19 deaths increase rapidly around the world.

Unlike the US and Europe, the vaccination program in Japan is not influenced by politics. “There is no politicization here. Vaccination is not linked to individual liberties. The public is not interested in any conspiracy theories,” said Professor Kenji Shibuya, senior expert at the Foundation. Tokyo Policy Research, said.

Children wait in line for vaccinations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in October. Photo: AP.

Children wait in line for vaccination in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in October. Photo: AP.

Immunization programs in dozens of other Asia-Pacific countries are also making positive progress. Malaysia has had two injections for 76% of the country’s population, while this rate in Singapore is up to 92%.

Health experts note that high vaccination rates are still a decisive factor in the success or failure of the fight against the pandemic. The higher the vaccine coverage in the population, the lower the pressure on the health systems of the countries, while the quality of patient care increases.

Asian countries also focus on bringing vaccines to populations with difficult access to health infrastructure. The Malaysian government has empowered the Red Cross to help vaccinate illegal immigrants and other populations that are hesitant for other legal reasons.

Director of the Center for Tropical Infectious Diseases and Education Research Malaysia Sazaly Abu Bakar emphasized the campaign’s motto is “vaccine for everyone, no questions asked”.

“Supply stories play an important role in countries that are having success with vaccination campaigns. However, we must also be concerned with creating demand for vaccines, namely persuading the population to accept and access those vaccines. vulnerable groups,” said John Fleming, medical director of the Red Cross in Asia-Pacific.

Trung Nhan (Follow AP/Quartz/ NPR)


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