As the U.S. government prepares to roll out booster doses for those who are vaccinated, the entire continent of Africa has managed to administer only a few doses more than what the state of California has already administered.
It is such inequities in response to the pandemic that has urged Bill Gates to say that the world is not ready for the next pandemic, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.
Gates was speaking to the outlet after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where he is the co-chair, released its annual report. Titled 'Goalkeepers', the report tracks indicators across various areas such as health, education, prosperity to realize sustainable development across the world. Over the last two years, the report has also been studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world and its progress towards sustainable development.
Citing the example of massive differences in completed vaccinations, Gates told WSJ that the world needs factories that can make a new vaccine in 100 days and then be able to produce enough doses for the entire world in the next 100 days if we want to be prepared for the next pandemic. He also called for nations to invest more in healthcare systems and highlighted three major responses to fight COVID-19, something he had done in 2015, as well.
The report also highlights the inequities in prosperity, education, and employment that were seen across the world that is recovering from the pandemic. The Foundation estimates that 33.9 million people fell into extreme poverty during the pandemic, with 26.6 million of them being in Sub-Saharan Africa.
As high-income countries slowly return to pre-pandemic normal, per capita incomes will also rise again in these countries. However, the economies of only one-third of low and middle-income countries will recover affecting per-capita incomes and keeping 700 million people in poverty till the turn of this decade, the report says.
The pandemic has affected women and children disproportionately when compared to men. According to the estimates, while men are expected to return to their regular jobs globally, more than 13 million women who were employed in 2019, will not.
And it's not looking bright for the children. Vaccination rates in children for communicable diseases such as diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis fell to levels last seen in 2005. 30 million children missed their vaccinations last year and it is likely that they will not catch up, the report says. In-school education for older children was also affected. Sadly, in the U.S. alone, children in high-poverty schools showed more learning loss than those in low-poverty schools. Black and Latino children lost more learning opportunities than their white or Asian-American counterparts, the report said.
To better prepare for the next pandemic, the report has called for investments in women and children programs along with long-term policies that help strengthen communities, in addition to improvisation of healthcare systems and vaccine research funding.