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News Navigator: Will novel coronavirus vaccines bring the pandemic to a halt?

A member of a mobile vaccination team prepares a COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer/Biontech vaccine for residents at a nursing home in Oberammergau, Germany, on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Angelika Warmuth/dpa via AP)

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about the novel coronavirus vaccine whose administration has begun in some countries, and whether it will help bring the pandemic to an end.

    Question: Novel coronavirus vaccinations have begun in some countries. Does this mean that the pandemic will end?

    Answer: It is said that infectious diseases will not wind down until 60% to 70% of the world's population becomes immune either by getting the virus or through vaccinations. According to a tally taken by Duke University in the U.S. at the end of December 2020, of the approximately 8.6 billion doses of vaccinations that the world's countries secured, about half were bought by developed countries. Unless we also deliver vaccines to developing countries that do not have the money to buy them, the pandemic will continue.

    Q: What can we do about it?

    A: The World Health Organization (WHO) and other bodies have launched an initiative called the COVAX Facility that brings together countries with economic strength to pool money to secure vaccines for developing countries. By March of this year, 190 countries and regions are set to receive their first vaccines. By the end of this year, 92 low- to medium-income countries are to be supplied with a total of 1.3 billion doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine.

    Q: Is that enough?

    A: No. It's only enough to vaccinate 20% of the people who live in those 92 countries, meaning that only health care workers and older adults will be vaccinated. Meanwhile, many developed countries are planning to buy more vaccines than their population. This is because just one dose of the vaccine is said to be not enough to provide immunity against the virus.

    Q: Is there any way we can deliver more vaccines to developing countries?

    A: Under COVAX, countries can donate vaccines that they've bought for themselves to poorer countries, which the WHO and other bodies are calling on rich countries that have secured a lot of vaccines to do. The WHO and other organizations say that for the novel coronavirus pandemic to end, at least $6.8 billion (approx. 700 billion yen) is necessary in 2021. Among the major countries, the U.S. and Russia have yet to join COVAX. Their participation is greatly anticipated in order for us to see the end of the pandemic as soon as possible.

    (Japanese original by Hanayo Kuno, Paris Bureau)

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