Every year, Groundhog Day is when we find out if we’ll be living through an extended winter. But what about an extended pandemic? This Groundhog Day, our progress towards ending COVID-19 in 2022 is shaping up to look a lot like 2020 and 2021. The inaction of world leaders to come up with a global plan to defeat COVID has stuck us in an endless loop of new COVID-19 variants, case surges, school closures, and economic aftershocks. Here are three things that have made the past 99 weeks feel like the same day over and over:
A continuous cycle of new variants
The Omicron variant has shown us how far away a “return to normal” will be as long as vast portions of the world are without access to vaccines. From Alpha, Beta, Delta, and Gamma to Omicron and its new subvariant, Omicron BA.2, the cycle of potentially more contagious or deadly variants won’t end until we have a global plan to control the pandemic. A recent poll found that three quarters of American voters agree that until much of the world has access to vaccines, we will continue to see the emergence of new COVID-19 variants like Delta and Omicron.
Wealthy countries continue to hoard vaccines
The world hit a major milestone in January 2022 – 10 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses were administered worldwide, but only 94 million of those have been administered in low-income countries. In fact, wealthy countries have administered almost 15 times the number of booster shots than first shots in low-income countries. This continuous vaccine hoarding brings us one step closer to living in Pandemica, an animated world where COVID-19 never ends, every day.
World leaders make big promises, but are slow to deliver
It’s been five months since world leaders set a goal to vaccinate 70% of the world by September 2022, but at our current rate of progress it could take over a decade before low-income countries achieve vaccination levels similar to high-income countries. To date, a little over one-third of doses committed by world leaders have actually been delivered.
Even where doses are available, they are often inaccessible. Wealthy countries, including the US, have not supplied the necessary funds to ensure vaccine doses get off the tarmac quickly and safely into arms. And that’s not even taking into consideration countries who donate doses so close to expiration they are rendered useless.
There is a “tomorrow,” a day on the other side of the pandemic, and we have the tools and resources to get there. But unless world leaders urgently rise to meet the need for global leadership, by nearly every measure we are set to repeat 2020 and 2021… again.