Distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine is a global issue – the crisis in New York highlights why

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There are two types of New Yorkers. Those waiting to be eligible for their COVID-19 vaccine and the other 4.5 million adults who have already been declared eligible and, willingly or not,  are still waiting.

The number of New Yorkers told they are eligible has wildly outrun any improvement in supply as Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed from a tightly limited cadre of medical workers in December to, now, everyone over 65, anyone under 65 with medical conditions that exacerbate COVID-19, frontline public servants and essential workers including, as of last week, taxi drivers and restaurant staff.

“The frustration level is so huge,” reported Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

For many seniors the face of this scarcity is simply opaque and complex websites that offer vaccine appointments the way Vegas slot machines produce triple cherries. You might as well try, but who can tell who the winners will be or why.

“We have been trying to help people register and the only appointments we can find are in April in Rochester,” Nina Schwalbe, an adjunct assistant professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia, told a city official a couple of weeks ago.

Brewer says she and her staff have spent hours on the phone trying to help constituents navigate the tangle of city, state and hospital websites and phone numbers that offer the hope of a vaccine appointment.

“It drove me crazy,” said Brewer. “I don’t know how older people do it. It was awful.”

In spite of all kinds of local initiatives to address the distribution problems, New York is still a city where millions are still waiting to be vaccinated. These are explored here.

Yet at least New York has access to vaccines. While there have been some success stories of countries that have rapidly vaccinated vulnerable citizens such as Israel and the UK, there are places in the globe where vaccination from Covid-19 is a distant dream. Across Africa 672 million doses of the vaccine have been ordered. Yet this will only vaccinate 38% of the population. This compared with countries like Canada and the UK which have ordered enough doses to vaccinate the entire country 5x and 3.6x over respectively.

The inequality in vaccine distribution and the potential consequences if a co-ordinated global response is not put in place are discussed in the next episode of Global GoalsCast which will be available shortly.

Photo by Laura James from Pexels




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