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The pandemic

We can’t beat Covid if the West keeps hoarding vaccines

A poster about the omicron variant in Mumbai, India. Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images 

There’s a “grim inevitability” about the discovery that the omicron variant was identified in a developing country, says David Fickling in Bloomberg. The original strain was found in China, delta was picked up in India, gamma originated in Brazil and beta was found in South Africa – only the UK’s alpha variant bucked the trend. This is partly a reflection of the fact that these countries have huge populations. But the main reason is that richer countries are now so “heavily vaccinated” that opportunities for the virus to mutate are limited. The same can’t be said for the developing world.

The simple truth is that for all the high vaccination rates in the West, there are still more than 3.4 billion people worldwide who haven’t had a single jab. Most countries haven’t yet hit a 50% vaccination rate and 64 haven’t even reached 25%. No prizes for guessing which part of the world is furthest behind. “Of the 37 nations with less than 10% fully protected, 32 are in sub-Saharan Africa.” This yawning gap is largely due to the “glacial pace” at which the drug-makers are sharing their intellectual property. It’s extraordinarily short-sighted of western governments not to grasp this. Until we raise vaccination rates in the developing world, there’ll always be a place for the virus to mutate.