International Vaccine Institute on Covid Vaccinations

A COVID-19 vaccination card holder is handed over to a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club on December 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ethan Miller | Getty Images

If 2021 was the year of vaccine development, 2022 will be a year of vaccinations and boosters, according to a leading expert.

“2022 will be the year of vaccination – either primary for people who haven’t been vaccinated, or booster shots for those of us who have been,” said Jerome Kim, CEO of the International Vaccine Institute, an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to vaccine research for poor countries.

Hopefully this will also mark the year that anti-Covid drugs emerge and make treatment more effective, Kim told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.

At the end of December, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorized two antiviral pills to treat Covid-19 in an emergency, marking a milestone in the battle against the coronavirus that has killed more than 5.4 million people in the world since its appearance at the end of 2019.

Pfizer’s Covid oral treatment pill, called Paxlovid, was the first oral antiviral drug to be cleared for emergency use in the United States. sickness.

At the end of 2021, the most transmissible omicron variant appeared and cases worldwide have increased in recent weeks.

Last week, the number of cases in the United States hit an all-time high. As of Tuesday, daily new cases nationwide hit a record seven-day average of more than 265,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. It broke the previous record of around 252,000 average daily cases set on January 11 last year, data showed.

In Asia, South Korea said on Friday it would extend restrictions after a surge in serious Covid infections.

Vaccinate those who need it

The key priority in 2022 is to get the people who need it vaccinated, especially those in the poorest countries who have limited access, Kim said.

“A really critical point to make – omicron is not the omega and we are going to see some additional mutants and variants of concern, and hopefully we will become more equitable in the use of vaccines,” he said. declared.

“More and more, the offer [of vaccines] won’t be the problem. The problem will be: who can put this vaccine in the arms of the people who need it. This is going to be the key for 2022 is to get people vaccinated, “Kim said, adding that there was a” significant number of people “in low-income countries, who had not received a single one. vaccine dose.

About 58.3% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine, but only 8.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data.

The world must tackle the ‘diagnostic gap’

Kim also highlighted a so-called ‘diagnostic gap’ at the diagnostic stage of Covid-19.

“This implies that in low-income countries they don’t do as much testing and they certainly don’t do as much streaking,” he said. Such genomic sequencing efforts of samples from coronavirus cases are helping to track new variants.

He added that countries need to become “much better at addressing” such a divide.

“It’s the sequencing of variants from around the world that lets scientists know if a disturbing new variant is emerging,” Kim said. “Getting out of this as quickly as possible is essential if we are to open up, because we know that air travel spreads the coronavirus quite effectively.”

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