Vaccine Inequity Contributed to Emergence of Omicron COVID-19 Variant

In Summary

The omicron COVID-19 variant is spreading quickly as cases spike across the country, but could it all have been avoided if more care and focus was placed on poorer nations?

The new omicron variant is instilling fear across America as experts say it has a large number of mutations which may allow it to spread more easily and possibly reduce existing immunity—but could it have been avoided? 

NBC News reported that South Africa, where the variant emerged, has a 35% fully vaccinated rate and the largest number of omicron cases. This percentage is greater than in much of Africa, and it appears to be due to vaccine apprehension more than a shortage of supply. 

RELATED: South Africa’s health care workers eager for first vaccines 

It’s a scientific fact that is disappointing but not surprising, given that Africa essentially begged for COVID-19 vaccine shipments as a majority of the 5.7 billion doses delivered were being disbursed to only 10 wealthy countries. 

“No country can vaccinate its way out of the pandemic alone,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, per NBC News. “The longer vaccine inequity persists, the more opportunity this virus has to spread and evolve in ways we cannot predict nor prevent. We are all in this together.” 

The World Health Organization said low-income nations, most of which are in Africa, have received only 0.6 percent of the approximately 8 billion vaccines delivered. The United States and other wealthy nations, on the other hand, have vaccinated everyone but the hesitant and ineligible, and are currently distributing boosters. 

Simply put, Africa is effectively a “superincubator” right now, according to Andrea Taylor, assistant director of programs at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center. 

RELATED: Unwilling to wait, poorer countries seek their own vaccines

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