As the United States and other Western nations try to vaccinate their way out of the coronavirus pandemic, some countries like Malaysia and Argentina are grappling with brutal upticks in infections, with insufficient supplies of vaccines in many parts of the world.
South America: Argentina’s hospital system has been strained by weeks of daily Covid-19 case counts above 30,000, more than triple the level in mid-March, and infections have risen in Colombia and Chile and remained high in Brazil and Uruguay.
Southeast Asia: Malaysia’s daily infection numbers have jumped from around 1,000 to 8,000 in the last two months, forcing the country into a tight nationwide lockdown this week, and Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia are facing sudden spikes after successfully preventing large-scale outbreaks last year, though their case counts are still fairly low.
The United States had previously struggled with the largest Covid-19 outbreak in the world, but daily infections have sloped down rapidly over the last six weeks, and are now at their lowest level since March 2020. Similarly, India was the pandemic’s epicenter in early May, but average daily cases have dropped more than 60% since then, though more than 100,000 people in India are still contracting the virus every day. And case counts have fallen across Europe in the last month, though the United Kingdom saw a slight rise in the last week.
Enough coronavirus vaccine doses have been administered to give at least partial immunity to more than 25% of the planet’s population. However, distribution has been extremely uneven. The United States spent billions of dollars to develop and purchase vaccine doses last year, setting the stage for it to partially vaccinate more than half of its residents so far, and many European nations have vaccination rates above 40%. Meanwhile, less wealthy places have struggled to buy and distribute doses: Vaccination rates hover below 25% in some Latin American countries and below 10% in Malaysia and Thailand. And less than 1% of people have been vaccinated in many Sub-Saharan African countries, which are awaiting subsidized doses from a WHO program and donated doses from the United States, Russia and China.
A high vaccination rate doesn’t necessarily guarantee an immediate drop in Covid-19 cases. Chile and Uruguay are contending with surges despite vaccinating more than half their citizens, a disconnect some locals have blamed on lax public health guidelines.