Worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 surpassed five million at the weekend, according to a Reuters tally, with unvaccinated people particularly exposed to the virulent Delta strain.
The variant has exposed the wide disparities in vaccination rates between rich and poor nations, and the upshot of vaccine hesitancy in some western nations.
More than half of all global deaths reported on a seven-day average were in the United States, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and India.
While it took just over a year for the COVID-19 death toll to hit 2.5 million, the next 2.5 million deaths were recorded in just under eight months, according to a Reuters analysis.
An average of 8,000 deaths were reported daily across the world over the last week, or around five deaths every minute. However, the global death rate has been slowing in recent weeks.
There has been increasing focus in recent days on getting vaccines to poorer nations, where many people are yet to receive a first dose, even as their richer counterparts have begun giving booster shots.
More than half of the world has yet to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data.
The World Health Organization this week said its COVAX distribution programme would, for the first time, distribute shots only to countries with the lowest levels of coverage.
Co-led by the WHO, COVAX has since January largely allocated doses proportionally among its 140-plus beneficiary states according to population size.
“For the October supply we designed a different methodology, only covering participants with low sources of supply,” Mariangela Simao, WHO Assistant Director General for Access to Vaccines, said in a recording of a conference presentation last week posted on the WHO’s website.
The United States, which has been battling vaccine misinformation that has caused about one-third of the population to avoid inoculations, surpassed 700,000 deaths on Friday, the highest toll of any country.
US.cases and hospitalizations have been trending lower, but health officials are bracing for a possible resurgence as cooler weather forces more activities indoors.
Russia reported 887 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, the largest single-day death toll it has recorded since the pandemic began and the fourth day in a row it has set that record. Only 33% of Russia’s eligible population has received a first vaccine dose.
As a region, South America has the highest death toll in the world accounting for 21% of all reported deaths, followed by North America and Eastern Europe contributing more than 14% of all fatalities each, according to Reuters analysis.
However, India, one of the first countries ravaged by the Delta variant, has gone from an average of 4,000 deaths a day to less than 300 as its vaccination campaign is rolled out.
About 47% of India’s eligible population has received a first shot, with officials administering around 7,896,950 doses per day over the past week, a Reuters analysis of Our World in Data showed.
The Delta variant is now the dominant strain around the globe and has been reported in 187 out of 194 World Health Organization member countries.
Meanwhile, on the local scene, Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has lamented that people are making the COVID-19 vaccination a political issue.
Speaking when he received the Chief Medical director (CMD) of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Prof. Darlington Obaseki, at the Government House in Benin City yesterday, the governor asked the residents to get vaccinated and ensure compliance with preventive protocols against the spread of the virus.
“I am saddened when I see people not protecting themselves against COVID-19. We are not making vaccination compulsory, but for now, it is the best way to protect yourselves and protect the people around you. It is so sad to see people making it a political issue. Go to any of our isolation centers and see what is happening to people,” he said.
According to the governor, the state government has drawn lessons on how to improve the healthcare delivery system following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added, “God forbid you to fall ill or you have an emergency, it won’t matter where you are treated. At that point, you don’t care if it is a federal, state, or religious institution, as long as you get cured. Government will sustain reforms in the healthcare system to reposition the state as the country’s medical hub.
Nigerians Who Can’t Afford Oversees Medical Treatment Don’t Deserve To Die—Wike
In a related development, Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has said the country must as a priority strengthen public health institutions because Nigerians who cannot afford medical treatment overseas don’t deserve to die.
He maintained that it is the primary responsibility of any government to ensure equitable access to basic healthcare for the citizens, especially the poor and most vulnerable in society.
Wike spoke yesterday after inspecting construction works at the multi-billion naira Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre; the Basic Clinical Sciences and Clinical Sciences, the Renal and Pathology Departments for the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Port Harcourt.
The governor said the state government’s huge investment in tertiary hospital and public health infrastructure was aimed at making the state the hub for medical tourism in the country.
He stated that any government that recognises the centrality of public health and its critical role in nation building would as a priority strengthen public health institutions so that those who cannot afford to seek medical treatment overseas don’t die.
Wike said: “How many people can afford traveling overseas? We have all it takes to improve on our health sector, to provide the necessary facilities. We have our doctors, all we need to do is training and retraining them.
“Look at Government House Hospital (Port Harcourt), look at how people troop in there, because the basic facilities are there and the doctors are willing, committed to work because of the environment they have found themselves.
“If you give our people the required environment and give them the facilities, the tools to work, there is no need for us travelling to overseas. When people come to Government House Clinic, they look at the facilities and say is it not what we see overseas. So we can replicate it here in Nigeria.”
The governor declared that government must make it a priority to provide incentives and creation of an enabling environment that can help ensure that doctors and other medical experts do their job well.
“So my own motivation is that if I have opportunity to travel overseas, what about others who does not have the opportunity to travel overseas? Must they die simply because they don’t have opportunity?
“It is the obligation of government to make sure that our citizens are given the best in terms of protecting their lives. It is the responsibility of government to protect lives.
“So for me, it is our responsibility and so we must do everything we can to see that we save the lives of our people by making sure that our healthcare delivery system is working and the doctors are also given the best for them to work.”
He described the quality of work at the Dr. Peter Odili Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centre, as very satisfactory, saying the contractor, Julius Berger, was working assiduously to meet the deadline for the completion the project.
Wike said the ongoing construction work at the Basic Clinical Sciences and Clinical Sciences; Renal and Pathology Departments buildings were required to make the Rivers State University a full-fledged teaching hospital.
The governor said the state government was not owing the contractors handling the Renal Centre, Pathology Department, Basic Clinical Sciences or the Clinical Sciences buildings of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital.
He charged the institution to ensure that all the contractors work towards the completion of the project by May 2022.
He said: “We have spent so much money in the health sector and we believe that our people at the end of the day will appreciate what we have been able to commit to health. For us, giving Rivers people the best has always been our priority. All I pray is that the contractors should meet up the time.”