Global coronavirus death toll passes three million amid vaccine slowdown

Tom Ambrose
·3-min read
<p>Vaccine rollout in many countries has been slow </p> (REUTERS)

Vaccine rollout in many countries has been slow


The global death toll from the coronavirus topped a staggering three million people today amid repeated setbacks in the worldwide vaccination campaign.

It also follows a deepening crisis in places such as Brazil, India and France, where cases are on the rise.

The number of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the population of Kyiv, Ukraine.

And the true number is believed to be significantly higher because of possible government concealment and the many cases overlooked in the early stages of the outbreak.

It is mostly poorer countries that are lagging behind in their vaccine rollouts, but some rich countries have been slow as well.

Many nations have imposed new lockdowns as virus cases soar.

Worldwide, deaths are on the rise again, running at around 12,000 per day on average, and new cases are climbing too, eclipsing 700,000 a day.

"This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, where we have proven control measures," said Maria Van Kerkhove, one of the World Health Organization's leaders on the virus.

In Brazil, where deaths are running at about 3,000 per day, accounting for one-quarter of the lives lost worldwide in recent weeks, the crisis has been likened to a “raging inferno” by one WHO official.

A more contagious variant of the virus has been rampaging across the country.

As cases surge, hospitals are running out of critical sedatives. As a result, there have been reports of some doctors diluting what supplies remain and even tying patients to their beds while breathing tubes are pushed down their throats.

Taking cues from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to little more than a flu, his health ministry for months gambled on a single vaccine, ignoring other producers.

When bottlenecks emerged, it was too late to get large quantities in time.

This situation is similarly dire in India, where cases spiked in February after weeks of steady decline, taking authorities by surprise.

In a surge driven by variants of the virus, India saw over 180,000 new infections in one dayduring the past week, bringing the total number of cases to over 13.9 million.

Last month, India said it would suspend vaccine exports until the virus's spread inside the country slows.

Globally, about 87 per cent of the 700 million doses dispensed have been given out in rich countries.

While 1 in 4 people in wealthy nations have received a vaccine, in poor countries the figure is 1 in more than 500.

In recent days, the US and some European countries put the use of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on hold while authorities investigate extremely rare but dangerous blood clots.

AstraZeneca's vaccine has likewise been hit with delays and restrictions because of a clotting scare.

Another concern is poorer countries are relying on vaccines made by China and Russia, which some scientists believe provide less protection that those by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

Last week, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged the country's vaccines offer low protection and said officials are considering mixing them with other shots to improve their effectiveness.

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