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Is the goal of vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against COVID still realistic?

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Health researchers say the mutating virus, which spreads more easily means we need to set new priorities for global health. John Wessels/AFP via Getty Images

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About a year ago, the World Health Organization called for 70% of each country’s population to be fully vaccinated against COVID by the middle of 2022.  And with the month of June, we’ve arrived at mid-year – but we haven’t come close to meeting that goal. Some of the world’s poorest countries haven’t broken 10%.

Remember when we used to talk about herd immunity? That’s what the 70% goal was all about.

But Krishna Udayakumar with Duke’s Global Health Innovation Center said we didn’t have the right strategy to meet it.

“We had massive challenges with supply,” he said.

It turns out rich countries buying up most vaccines and poor countries relying on donations wasn’t very effective. Udayakumar said those donations arrived too late.

“Because the surges have come through, the omicron variant completely changed the game,” he said.

The new variants are less virulent but more transmissible, and the vaccine isn’t great at stopping their spread.

Javier Guzman with the Center for Global Development said we should set aside that 70% benchmark and focus on vaccinating the world’s most vulnerable populations.

“And those are health workers, those are people with higher risk,” he said.

Guzman added that aid money should go into low-income countries’ health systems, so they’ll be better prepared for the next public health crisis.

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