BEIJING (AFP) – China on Sunday announced it had administered its one-billionth shot in the world’s biggest coronavirus inoculation drive as Brazil’s death toll from the pandemic passed 500,000.
The global death toll from Covid-19 is now more than 3.8 million and many nations are still battling outbreaks, but vaccine drives in some countries are allowing activities that were unthinkable a few months ago.
China’s vaccine milestone comes after the number of shots administered globally passed 2.5 billion on Friday, according to an AFP count from official sources.
But the Asian giant’s vaccination efforts initially got off to a slow start after a successful fight against the virus left little sense of urgency to get jabbed.
Authorities have set an ambitious target of fully vaccinating 40 percent of China’s nearly 1.4 billion people by the end of this month.
Some provinces are offering vaccines for free to encourage people to roll up their sleeves. Residents in central Anhui province have been given free eggs, while some living in Beijing have received shopping coupons.
China’s success against the virus stands in stark contrast to Brazil, which on Saturday became the second nation after the United States to surpass half a million Covid-19 deaths.
Vaccination efforts have been slow with only 11 percent of the Brazilian population inoculated, as a third wave of infections spreads through the nation.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who previously hit out at vaccines, has promised to immunize the entire population by the end of the year -- something specialists consider unlikely.
He has been criticized for downplaying the illness from the outset, opposing lockdown measures and plugging unproven medical treatments.
On Saturday, thousands of Brazilians again took to the streets to protest against his handling of the pandemic.
“His position on Covid and his denialism are absurd. He has abandoned reality and common sense,” said Robert Almeida, a 50-year-old photographer marching in Rio.
In India, there were also fears that people were not taking the Covid threat seriously enough, just a few weeks after crematoriums were operating around the clock dealing with virus victims.
Doctors are worried that India is letting its guard down again too early as shopping malls and markets buzz with customers once more.