A look at the COVID-19 leadership of some prominent World Leaders and the success of vaccination drives in their countries – from best to worst…
After over a 100 million cases and 2 million deaths, the global effort to vaccinate the world against COVID-19 began in early December last year. Although more than 40 countries started administering COVID-19 vaccines to their people, few programs stood apart in terms of their vaccination rates while others faltered despite having all the resources.
Here we rank the world leaders in their COVID-19 vaccine leadership – from best to worst…
The Best Vaccine Rollout Strategies of the World
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel
With over 600,000 cases and nearly 5000 deaths, Israel was badly hit by COVID-19. However, under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership, the country outstripped the rest of the world by vaccinating more than 10% of its 9 million people in just 10 days of administering the doses.
According to Our World in Data, a research website affiliated with Oxford University, Israel’s vaccination program (which began on December 20, 2020) successfully distributed the vaccine to three times as much of its population as the second-fastest nation, the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain. Today, Israel is leading the world with more than 27 people in every hundred having received a dose.
Country’s fully digitized community-based healthcare system (all citizens, by law, must register with one of Israel’s four health maintenance organizations) and an aggressive procurement effort (the central government got early success in purchasing enough doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to cover the whole population) helped it become a world leader in vaccinating against COVID-19.
For his efforts (Israel brought the vaccine to everyone: Jews and Arabs, religious and secular), Netanyahu — on trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust — has won praise from his long-time critics.
“We can’t blame Netanyahu for all of Israel’s ills — correctly, most of the time — and then ignore his contribution when something works,” wrote Gideon Levy, a columnist for the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper last week.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE
Second highest in the world (18 jabs per 100 people) after Israel in coronavirus vaccine administration rates, UAE launched a COVID-19 vaccine campaign on December 23, 2020 to vaccinate over 50% of its 10 million population by end of March. The Gulf nation not only administered vaccines by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, but also the one developed by China’s Sinopharm.
Under Rashid’s leadership, UAE had vaccinated nearly one-fifth of its 10 million people by mid-January. An Islamic ruling in favor of COVID-19 vaccine by the country’s Fatwa Council also contributed to the rapid rollout and boosting public confidence.
Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain
Prince Salman’s leadership helped Bahrain restrict COVID-19 cases to just over 100,000 and deaths to less than 400. The country became the second nation in the world to grant an emergency-use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine and started to vaccinate everyone 18 years and older at 27 different medical facilities early December with the aim to vaccinate 10,000 people a day.
Prince Salman, who took part in the third phase of COVID-19 vaccine trials in September, told his countrymen: “Today I was privileged to stand together with our vaccine volunteers, each one of them determined to play their part in working to protect others, not just at home in our kingdom, but right across the globe and this global crisis requires a global response. In Bahrain we are proud to say we have stepped forward and shouldered responsibility, first in sharing in treatment and testing best practice, and now in support of safe vaccine testing and development.”
At the time of publishing, Bahrain’s vaccine program had the third-highest vaccination rate in the world at 5.75 per 100 individuals. The Kingdom aims to vaccinate its total population of an estimated 1.6 million people for free.
Narendra Modi, India
While most countries are using vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, India approved two homegrown COVID-19 vaccines – Serum Institute of India’s COVISHIELD and Bharat Biotech’s COVAXIN. Under prime minister Narendra Modi’s leadership, the country that suffered the world’s second-highest number of infections after the United States of America, was ranked 8th in the global race of vaccination within a week of launching the “world’s largest vaccination program” on January 16, 2021.
From an initial average of 200,000 people getting vaccinated every day, the per day number has jumped to 500,000. According to the latest health ministry data, India took just 13 days to reach 3 million vaccinations in its program – fastest in the world (the United States took 18 days, while Israel took 33 days). 300 million people (including defence forces, police and paramilitary forces) will be vaccinated in the first stage by August 2021.
Moreover, vaccines gifts have been sent to neighbouring Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, and Bahrain. The country is set to export COVID-19 vaccines to more countries including Brazil, South Africa and the Gulf countries.
The Worst Vaccine Rollout Strategies of the World
Donald Trump, USA
While about 30% of Israelis have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the United States is far behind – with about 6% percent of residents receiving a vaccine due to lack of a synchronized federal approach.
Although the US is fourth after Israel, the UAE and the UK in terms of doses per 100 people, it fell far short of the target set by the Trump administration to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of 2020 as part of Operation Warp Speed.
Before Joe Biden could announce and implement plans for a more centralized COVID-19 response, which includes administering 100 million doses in his first 100 days in office, the United States under Donald Trump had distributed 11.4 million doses, but only 2.1 million vaccines had actually been administered by December 2020.
Dr. Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner, told CNBC that the states needed guidance and resources from the federal government to manage the process but Trump failed them. “This is giving me flashbacks of all the problems in testing. The responsibility was given to locals and states, but no resources… to actually get there.”
Justin Trudeau, Canada
The Canadian government has been heavily criticized for its slow rollout of vaccines, falling behind countries like Israel and India. Although prime minister Justin Trudeau claimed that by September 2021 the country will have enough doses to vaccinate its 38 million people, Canada has administered only 150,000 doses since the first vaccine was administered on December 14. Just over a million Canadians would need to be vaccinated every week to reach the ambitious goal of vaccinating the entire population by September.
Moreover, there are reports that a large number of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccines remain sitting in freezers instead of being administered. Trudeau recently admitted: “All Canadians, including me, are frustrated to see vaccines in freezers and not in people’s arms. That’s why we’re going to continue working closely with the provinces, both to deliver vaccines to the provinces and to support them as they need it in terms of getting more vaccines out to vulnerable populations and front-line workers as quickly as possible.”
Boris Johnson, UK
The United Kingdom, which became the first country to administer the COVID-19 vaccine on December 8, has only vaccinated 7.1 million people by January 27. For the uninitiated, prime minister Boris Johnson had launched the country’s biggest ever vaccination program aimed at vaccinating 15 million Britishers by mid-February.
However, in order to hit the target, the UK’s National Health Service needs to administer at least 400,000 vaccine doses each day. Although the UK program is administering the domestically-made AstraZeneca as well as vaccines by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, only about 350,000 vaccinations are carried out on an average each day.
Meanwhile, a recent Scottish government document has revealed that Britain does not have enough COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate most of its 15 million most-vulnerable citizens. It also suggests that the vaccines that are delivered are not being injected into people’s arms. A COVID vaccinator has also claimed that while supply is an issue, thousands of doses are being thrown away every day: “Yes, you’ve read that correctly – vaccine doses being thrown away, when we’re in the middle of the worst national emergency since the Second World War, and these vaccines are essential in our fight against Covid-19. If this is the case nationally, where there are more than 1,000 vaccine centres, this means between 1,000 and 3,000 doses per day are being needlessly discarded.”
Emmanuel Macron, France
Mismanagement, a highly centralised culture, staffing shortages, and a complex French consent policy coupled with president Emmanuel Macron’s cautious approach to rolling out a COVID-19 vaccination program (which began on December 27) left only 516 people vaccinated in the first 6 days. Germany’s first-week total surpassed 200,000 and Italy’s was over 100,000 – two of France’s neighbours under fire for being too slow to protect its people from the pandemic.
Critics say Macron’s unwillingness to address a significant part of the French population that had expressed concerns or hostility toward the vaccine as well as his government’s refusal to make vaccination compulsory is the reason behind France’s blundering vaccination program.
Although it administered just 0.38 COVID-19 vaccines per million people compared to at least 4.52 in the UK by mid-January, French health minister Olivier Véran claims that the number of people vaccinated in the country would rise to “4 million at the end of February, 9 million in March, 20 million at the end of April, 30 million at the end of May, 43 million at the end of June, 57 million at the end of July, and 70 million, that is to say the entire French population, by the end of August“.
From February 2, all deliveries of first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to medical establishments would be suspended. And, just 1.13 million first doses have been administered as of January 26. How Macron aims to meet the target and save his image will be critical as the country grapples with a spike in COVID-19 cases and more than 75,000 deaths. “The fiasco is a failure of the French state and of its ruling elites’ arrogance and incapacity to deal with down-to-earth problems such as logistics, or to learn from other countries’ experience,” argues French economist Antoine Levy.