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Hong Kong hits pause on China’s vaccine; fears of “vaccine apartheid” in global south

A look at how COVID-19 is impacting life around the world

by Stranger’s Guide

Hong Kong

A coronavirus advisory panel in Hong Kong is holding off recommending a vaccine from mainland China. The panel wants further information on the timing of the second dose before it sanctions the new shot. The wait for more data could delay the roll out of the free vaccination program. (South China Morning Post)

Iceland

Iceland is currently the only one in Europe given a “green” designation by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control due to its low infection rates, and experts say the country has benefited from its isolated geographical location as well as its widespread testing to track the spread of the coronavirus. Now Iceland has become one of the first European countries to begin opening up bars, gyms, concerts and theaters following the second wave of COVID-19 infections. It’s a remarkable reversal for a country that at one point had one of the highest infection rates in Europe. (Financial Times)

Syria

In 2013, near the beginning of the Syrian civil war, polio made a comeback in Deir ez-Zour, despite the country eradicating the disease 18 years before. Researchers claim that it was no accident; that the year before, Bashar al-Assad’s government deliberately excluded the area from a vaccination program. Now there are fears the same could happen with the coronavirus vaccines. Aid and human rights organizations worry that the COVID-19 vaccine could become a tool for governments and rebel groups embroiled in fighting as “a form of indirect, passive biological warfare,” according to public health expert Annie Sparrow. Currently, border closures near opposition-held areas, mean aid agencies need permits from the Assad regime to bring in vaccines. (Egypt Independent)

Uganda

Campaigners and scientists are warning that there could soon be a “vaccine apartheid” in which people living in certain countries are vaccinated years after those in the West. That gap also applies to pricing; Uganda is paying $7 a dose for AstraZeneca vaccines, more than three times the figure that the EU paid for the inoculation. Including transportation fees, that cost goes up to $17 to vaccinate just one person in Uganda. (Daily Monitor)

Bolivia

Healthcare workers in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, went on strike amid a rise in COVID-19 cases, demanding that the government impose stricter lockdown measures to address the pandemic. The workers wanted to see stay-at-home orders and a pause in public transportation. Santa Cruz, the country’s most populous and wealthiest region, was hit particularly hard by the virus, registering almost 80,000 cases and over 5,000 deaths; countrywide, there hacve been 229,000 infections and almost 11,000 deaths. (Al Jazeera)

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