The UK is making good progress in its coronavirus vaccination rollout, with more than 13 million people having had at least one jab.
But it’s a different story for the rest of the world, and one expert has made the dire prediction the planet won’t be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 for another six years.
Infectious diseases expert Dr Sanjaya Senanayake said pandemics will become more common in the future because of the way humanity is “impinging more and more natural habitats”.
And with vaccine programmes underway in only 70 countries, it will be some time before worldwide protection becomes a reality.
“At the current rate of vaccination, it is estimated we won’t reach global coverage of 75% with vaccines for about six years,” he told the National Press Club on Wednesday.
“Not one or two years but six years.”
He warned that across 70 of the world’s poorest nations, only 10% of people would be immunised by the end of 2021.
That’s not just a problem for those countries but for all of us, as the nature of a pandemic means the situation won’t be resolved until coronavirus is eliminated or at least controlled in every part of the globe.
In the year since the first reported cases, SARS-CoV-2 has already mutated into several different strains, and will continue to do so until community transmission is brought down to manageable levels.
Speaking directly to Australia, which has ordered 50 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to be produced in Melbourne later this year, Dr Senanayake said the nation wouldn’t see its benefits until foreign countries also reach effective levels of immunity.
“If we continue this global vaccine rollout while in other parts of the world infection continues unchecked, then we will see more sinister strains emerge which might have further impacts on vaccine efficacy,” he said.
“Therefore, if you were a believer in vaccine nationalism … you also have to embrace vaccine altruism and ensure that vaccines are delivered in sufficient numbers and in a timely manner to the developing world.”
A year ago Dr Senanayake predicted that coronavirus would vanish over summer but return in winter with a vengeance.
At the time, the virus had killed just 1,500 people and was yet to become a serious problem in the UK.
He was correct that infection rates dipped significantly over the warmer months, although sadly it never went away completely.
The winter comeback also came true, with cases skyrocketing in December and January, prompting the UK Government to implement its harshest lockdown yet which has yet to end.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to unveil his plan for coming out of lockdown on February 22.