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COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout: A True Test of the Bureaucracy

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Laila El Baradei
June 3, 2021

Effectiveness is the government’s ability to realize its objectives, while efficiency is its ability to do so while maximizing outputs and reducing inputs. As always discussed, it is the difference between doing the right thing, versus doing things right, with the ultimate ideal situation being the ability to do both simultaneously. When assessing government’s effectiveness and efficiency there are a number of measures used.

During the raging COVID-19 pandemic, I think one of the important measures for both governments’ effectiveness and efficiency lies in their ability to make available vaccines for their citizens and to rollout those vaccines as quickly as possible. Speed in vaccine rollout is of the essence in the strive to beat the spread of the virus and enable citizens to acquire immunity before a new virus strain develops. Having said that, this is no easy task. Three quarters of the world’s 7.8 billion population who are over the age of 15 need to be vaccinated, i.e. a total of 5 billion doses of the vaccine needs to be administered ASAP.

Looking at how nations are doing with the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, we find that there are huge discrepancies and many issues are involved. Economic power, politics and ethics are three main independent variables in the vaccine rollout equation. Unless all are well, no one is going to be well.

Reuters, CNN and other news agencies have mobilized their army of journalists to collect data about vaccine rollout performance in different parts of the world, and they have this data available on their websites. Findings point to the obvious that the richer and the more developed a country is, the more likely it is performing better with the rollout of the vaccine. Some wealthy Arab countries like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are doing great. They have managed to buy sufficient quantities of vaccine for their residents and are up to speed with the rollout of the vaccine. Bahrain has given 54% of its population at least one shot.

Some countries like Canada, although accused of hoarding vaccines and buying nearly five times the needs of their citizens, are relatively slower in the vaccine rollout, although they are adhering to strict regulations in abidance with the criteria upon which citizens become eligible for vaccination. Currently 53% of their population have received at least one shot. To date, nearly 50% of the United States population have received one shot of the vaccine, but there are differences between states in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of vaccination, with some states like Massachusetts taking the lead.

Meanwhile, in countries like Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia—a sample of countries listed in alphabetical order—the rollout of the vaccination is happening very slowly and less than 1% of the population have received their first shot. An important caveat to note is that the data reported through the various websites established for that purpose may not be totally accurate. Some countries report on total number of jabs administered and others differentiate between the first and second doses of the vaccine. Moreover, numbers change on a daily basis.

In Egypt for example, all people have to register through the government platform developed for that purpose through the Ministry of Health. Priority was said to be given to the medical staff, the elderly and those with chronic diseases, but in reality, we see glitches in the system, where younger people with no ailments get to be called upon to receive the vaccine, and others, some of whom are much elderly and with chronic diseases, are still in the waiting line. The percentage of people who have received the vaccine so far is still dismal.

Ethics play a vital role in the vaccine rollout with the WHO through its COVAX initiative, trying to make sure that the vaccines reach the needy countries for free. In many cases however, some countries ban exportation of their vaccines to give first priority to their citizens. These types of behaviors are not helping the global fight against the pandemic.

Additionally, hints at political wars between vaccine producing nations have been reported. After all, billions of dollars are at stake. When the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended for a while in the European Union, some claimed that this was basically a retaliation act against Brexit and Britain finally leaving the European Union. It was openly referred to as the, “Brexit Vaccine War.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, when first announced, was met with a smear campaign and the Russians accused the United States and other countries of slowing down the fast-track approvals.

If governments cannot pull their act together, act ethically and responsibly, give vaccination top priority and develop an effective and efficient rollout vaccination program during the pandemic, then I do not know what else they are doing, and what else can be considered a priority over citizens’ health and well-being!

Author: Laila El Baradei, Ph.D. is a Professor of Public Administration at The American University in Cairo, Egypt. She is a regular contributor to PA Times Online. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @Egyptianwoman

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