COVID-19 Omicron variant – hopeful signs of peaking in the U.S. and Europe; supply disruptions continue from zero tolerance policy in China

In a recent post, I reviewed vaccine equity issues around the COVID-19 pandemic and recent developments including a new low-cost vaccine being produced in India and available to be produced in many countries with no licensing costs. See January 11, 2022:  WTO efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic — the January 10, 2022 General Council meeting and some current developments of interest,

The omicron variant has wreaked havoc in Europe and in the U.S., though there are signs of the huge surge in cases starting to ebb. See, e.g., European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of week 2, updated 20 January 2022 (data for last two weeks of 2021 not available; huge surge from omicron reflected in curve; dark blue is Europe, light blue is the Americas). The following chart shows new cases worldwide.

COVID-19 situation update worldwide, as of week 2, updated 20 January 2022

Distribution of COVID-19 cases worldwide, as of week 2 2022
The ECDC data show the U.S. being the first country to record more than 10 million infections in a fourteen day period (10.586 million; weekly data from the ECDC actually show 12.52 million cases reported in the U.S. in the first two weeks of 2022). The huge surge in Europe in the last several months is spread across many countries. France has been particularly hard hit with new cases numbering in the hundreds of thousands per day for nearly every day in January (highest, 464,679 on January 19 with declines since then). See ECDC, Data on the daily number of new reported COVID-19 cases and deaths by EU/EEA country 20 January 2022,

In the United States, there is a note of optimism as the national number appears to be coming down. The decline is significant in some states where omicron was first identified but cases are still increasing in other parts of the country. See, e.g., NBC News, ‘An optimistic trend’: Covid cases are falling, but U.S. isn’t out of the woods yet, January 22, 2022, (“Cases are already falling in parts of the Northeast, Walensky said. ‘We are starting to see steep declines in areas that were first peaking, so areas of the Northeast — New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut — are really starting to come down.’ Shea said that cases in the rest of the country and deaths, which lag behind cases, are expected to trail shortly after. The big dropoff in cases in large states like New York can make the nationwide average look lower, even though cases are still rising in many states, but she expects all states to hit their peaks soon after Northeastern states.” 

Supply chain problems that have plagued the world for many months now and led to both shortages and large inflationary pressures may continue in part because of China’s zero-tolerance COVID policy has resulted in more shutdowns ahead of the approaching winter olympic games. See, e.g., New York Times, Supply Chain Woes Could Worsen as China Imposes New Covid Lockdowns, January 16, 2022, (“Companies are bracing for another round of potentially debilitating supply chain disruptions as China, home to about a third of global manufacturing, imposes sweeping lockdowns in an attempt to keep the Omicron variant at bay.”).

Many countries, including the U.S. and EU, are reviewing supply chain issues to improve resiliency and reduce risks. Both the U.S. and EU for example have been looking at legislation to bolster semiconductor chip manufacturing. See, e.g., World Economic Forum, ‘There’s no digital without chips’: New European Chips Act announced, 20 January 2022 (“European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a new European Chips Act”),; Reuters, U.S. House bill on China competitiveness, chip investment, coming soon – Pelosi, January 21, 2022,

While discussions continue around trade and health issues at the WTO including what, if any, temporary waiver from TRIPS obligations or other actions to improve vaccine production may be needed, data available on vaccine production and shipments continue to suggest that the issue is not necessary for a resolution to the COVID-19 pandemic. See, e.g., WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker, Last updated: 17 January 2021, (showing total supply to the end of December at 11.5 billion doses; exports of 4.4 billion doses, with rapidly increasing shipments to low income and lower-middle income countries in the last few months of 2021). Several tables from the latest WTO-IMF COVID-19 Vaccine Trade Tracker are copied below.

“3. Imports

“Imports are defined as the number of doses received from producing economies, mirroring the information provided in the exports section. This definition does not take into account imports of vaccine substances in bulk form to be used in ‘fill and finish’ sites.”

Income Group ImportsNumber of doses (million)Doses per 100 peoplePopulation (million)
Low income234.034.5678.4
Lower middle income1,482.149.52,994.7
Upper middle income1,748.559.72,930.4
High income935.675.41,241.6
Note: as of 31 December 2021

ContinentNumber of doses (million)Doses per 100 peoplePopulation (million)
South America682.7157.3434.0
North America460.577.7592.8
Note: as of 31 December 2021

With more vaccines being reviewed by the WHO and individual countries, production of vaccines in 2022 will exceed volumes produced in 2021. Exports will also increase as trends in the second half of 2021 show have been happening.

While different sources look at vaccinations for individual countries and territories, attached is an excel spreadsheet of data from the World Health Organization for data available as of January 20, 2022. There are countries not covered by the WHO data (e.g., Taiwan) and others for which there is no World Bank 2022 income designation. I have added the categories of the World Bank GNI per capita income (low income, lower-middle income, upper-middle income, high income) to the WHO table. At the end of the WHO listing I have broken the data out by income group. For those countries/territories with no World Bank designation, they are listed “na”. For countries or territories in the World Bank list but not shown on the WHO list, I have included the name of the country/territory at the end of the income grouping.

As reviewed in prior posts, for groups and organizations focuses on vaccine equity, it is important to understand the causes of the very large differences in vaccines/100 people shown within at least the low income, lower-middle income and upper-middle income categories. For example, Rwanda (97.195 vaccinations/100 people), Mozambique (54.492 vaccinations/100 people) are low income countries. But their experience in vaccine access is much different than many other low income countries (most under 30 vaccine doses/100 people, many under 20 or 10/100 people, one less than 1/100 people). Medical infrastructure and many other factors are certainly important components in improving vaccine access to many low income countries. See GAVI, World leaders launch call for renewed support for vaccination in 2022 as part of the global fight against COVID-19, (” Specifically, COVAX leaders called for at least US$ 5.2bn in new funding: US$ 3.7 billion to fund a 600 million dose Pandemic Vaccine Pool to address uncertainties and related uncovered risks, such as boosters, additional coverage, new variant vaccines if required, and to make sure there is reliable supply for the poorest countries. In addition, catalytic delivery funding of US$ 1 billion is requested to support getting doses into arms rapidly and safely without undermining routine immunization activities. A further US$ 545 million is needed to cover ancillary costs such as syringes, transport and insurance for donations.”).

The same is true for lower-middle income countries with Cambodia and Mongolia recording 189.643 and 164.686 vaccine doses/100 people respectively while Nigeria, Cameroon and and Zambia report just 9.007, 3.859, and 5.665 vaccine doses/100 people respectively. Seventeen countries have reported more than 100 vaccine doses/100 people while 9 have reported 20 vaccine doses/100 people or fewer.

The same is true for upper-middle income countries where the range of vaccine doses/100 people range from 32.258 for Equitorial Guinea to 283.945 for Cuba.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: