Slow vaccine rollout being blamed as poorer nations fall behind in battle against Covid-19

The poorest nations are falling even further behind the rich, in the battle against Covid-19; with the slow vaccine rollout jeapordising their ability to quell any future surges of the vaccine. 

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The tragic scenes in India are thought to be the start of a larger wave spreading across the developing world, with the Philippines one of the next in line. Source: 1 NEWS

The tragic scenes in India this month are thought to be the start of a larger wave spreading across the developing world, with the Philippines expected to be next in line. 

Dr Rodrigo Ong of independent OCTA Research Group think tank at the University of the Philippines told the South China Morning Post the Philippines was at the "same crosspoint" as India was just prior to its latest surge.  

And as the possibility of quarantine restrictions easing looms, his concern is the already struggling nation could follow India. 

Official figures show Covid cases tipped one million this month in the South East Asian nation; and the number of those dying reached an all time high.

The Philippines' rate of 152 deaths per million people surpassed that of India's 137 per million. This combined with how well it's performing in terms of its testing rates and level of economic disruption has seen the Philippines ranked 45 out of 52 nations in Bloomberg's Covid-19 resilience rankings. 

And while it is among the hardest hit nations in the world; the Philippines was one of the last to secure vaccines. Its first doses arrived in March, three months after the first were rolled out in the US and the UK, and just as the country of more than 7,000 islands began to see another surge in cases. 

The arrival of the vaccines was too late for John Lorenz Magat, whose parents, both health professionals in Manila, caught the virus and died within 12 days of each other in the same hotel room.

"What if the vaccine arrived earlier, like in January? Maybe we would have been protected more. Maybe my parents wouldn't have to die." 

As healthworkers, they should have been first in line. 

Magat says while the vaccine rollout is now underway in the Philippines "we can't save those who have already died". 

This what-if hanging over him and the fact he couldn't be with his parents when they died make his loss that much harder. 

"I didn't even get to say goodbye, especially to my mother. My father, at least I talked to him, but the reminder of his face, it really pains me a lot because I miss them so much I wish I could have been there."

Part of the challenge for the Philippines has been securing the vaccine; while many higher-income nations have secured enough for their entire populations; Filipino authorities are still in negotiation mode. 

To date the latest figures from John Hopkins show it has only fully vaccinated around 0.2 per cent of its population; compared to India's 1.79 per cent. 

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is unable to say when he'll have enough vaccines for his nation of more than 100 million people. 

"When will we have the stocks sufficient to vaccinate the people," he said at a recent meeting of officials. "I really do not know. Nobody knows. I'm telling you many more will die here." 

And it's a similar picture across many low-middle to low income nations. Recent figures from the Duke Global Health Innovation Centre show that the lowest income countries like Syria and Somalia have secured around 0.77 billion doses of a Covid vaccine. Lower-middle income countries like the Philippines, Pakistan, Algeria and Bolivia have secured 0.73 billion. In comparison the high income nations have secured over 4.7 billion doses. 

This week, White House chief science advisor Dr Anthony Fauci says richer nations must do more for the poorer counterparts if we wanted to all get out of the other side of this pandemic. 

"It's a global pandemic. And the only way that you are going to adequately respond to a global pandemic is by having a global response. 

"And a global response means equity throughout the world," he told the Guardian

Fauci, who is also the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says historically the developed world has not done well for the developing world. 

He says it is time to do better.

"We have to have vaccines available to those countries that don't have the capability to do it themselves." 

Meanwhile nations, that even before Covid-19 had poor health infrastructure, are at breaking point. Devastating scenes in India have caught the world's attention this month. And those 1 NEWS spoke to in the Philippines are painting a similar picture.  

 John Lorenz Magat works as a doctor in a busy hospital in Manila where he says over 80 to 90 per cent of those admitted are diagnosed with Covid-19. He's seen patients as young as 30 die. 

"That shows you the unpredictability of the disease," he said. 

He describes people queuing up outside, with some dying in their cars as a result of the delays in accessing care. 

"Outside the hospital you will see a lot of patients because all the available beds in the wards and in the ICUS are always has been that way since the pandemic started.

"We see patients who die in the car, outside the hospital." 

Filipinos living in New Zealand have been left feeling powerless as they see whole families fall ill and watch loved ones die from afar. 

Plivia Alaba, who lives in Christchurch, lost her uncle in March and two friends just last week. 

"It's terrible, it's devastating because we couldn't do anything, but just keep in touch with them and send them financial support as we can.

"But even with that, it's not enough."