The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation(BMGF) says the COVID-19 pandemic, which began barely 25 weeks ago, has reversed the gains recorded in the health sector by 25 years.
This is according to its 2020 Goalkeepers’ Report, which measures progress of countries in relation to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations(UN).
The report, which is themed, ‘COVID-19: A Global Perspective’, looks at the effect of coronavirus on different sectors worldwide and reveals that poverty has increased to unrivalled levels.
It read in part, “Mutually exacerbating catastrophes is an apt description for the COVID-19 pandemic, too. First, there was the disease itself. Then, governments moved resources to try to manage it and people stopped seeking health care to avoid being infected: building blocks of a comprehensive health catastrophe.
“Consider vaccine coverage, which is a good proxy measure for how health systems are functioning. Our data partner, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHMF), found that in 2020 coverage is dropping to levels last seen in the 1990s. In other words, we’ve been set back about 25 years in about 25 weeks.”
The foundation stated that the most affected countries would need support to make sure that what should be temporary reversals would not become permanent.
The BMGF said in the 1970s, vaccinations reached only about five per cent of the world’s children; by 2019, they reached over 80 per cent and prevented more than two million deaths.
“That progress is now at risk. Because of COVID-19, vaccination rates are going back to 1990s levels. In some cases, these vaccinations are simply delayed, and kids can ‘catch up’ later without much consequence.
However, some infections, such as measles, spread easily, and even short-term disruptions can lead to immediate increases in illness and death”, the foundation stated.
It said the race for a COVID-19 vaccine must be a collective task by all governments.
The BMGF said when the vaccine eventually arrives, it should be distributed to countries based on population and their COVID-19 burden and not on income.
It said a research by the Northeastern University showed that if wealthy nations buy up the first two billion doses of the vaccine, only 33 per cent of deaths worldwide would be reduced. The research, however, showed that if it was distributed based on population, 61 per cent of deaths would be reduced.