Three themes

Pandem-ic tracks pandemic inequality across countries (ic) by income group, region and subregion. It publishes insights around three themes: (1) the understated severity of the pandemic in the developing world, (2) the unseen scale of the Omicron escalation and (3) the unmet need for global vaccine equity. 


Theme #1: Pandemic severity

The first theme is the understated severity of the pandemic in the developing world. Official data on pandemic mortality have fooled us more than once. Early on in the pandemic, official data underpinned the claim that COVID-19 would leave the developing world “unscathed”. Later on, again underpinned by official data, this became: the pandemic has been “mild” in developing countries with young populations and therefore they “do not need vaccines”. But nothing could be further from the truth once we take a broader look. 

That broader look is made possible when we use the concept of excess mortality which represents the gold standard to assess the true and total impact of the pandemic. The chart above shows just how intensive the mortality impact has been in the developing world not just in absolute terms but also in per capita terms. Lower-middle income countries registered by far the biggest blow. Other country income groups are clustered remarkably closely together, which is an astonishing outcome in and by itself given the huge demographic differences across income groups. 

The posts on pandemic severity tackle a number of questions:

  • What is the latest on COVID-19 and excess mortality across countries and over time? 
  • How is the gap between the two mortality concepts evolving? 
  • How does COVID-19 compare with pre-pandemic mortality patterns? 
  • How to think about the ranking pandemic severity across richer and poorer countries? 
  • What has been the impact of population outliers? 
  • Are we seeing a reversal in the countries traditionally most-affected by a disease pandemic? 
  • Why are poorer countries so much affected despite their younger populations? 
  • And why is this – and has it always been – a developing country pandemic? 

The most recent posts on pandemic severity are listed here, where all but a few are updated daily:

See also the following external articles and blogs republished here:

Theme #2: Scale of Omicron escalation

The second theme is the previously unseen scale of the Omicron escalation. Since mid-December 2021 , Omicron has enveloped the world, which led – initially accompanied by Delta – to an unprecedented expansion in the number of confirmed cases. Pandem-ic documents this escalation and highlights its unequal impacts across countries. It also discusses the implications of the sheer scale of the escalation for the future course of the pandemic.

The above chart captures well the scale of Omicron escalation. It shows the ratio of the most recent peak in cases and deaths per capita relative to the earlier peak in these numbers before November 1, 2021. We can see that the escalation in cases has been remarkable (it would be even more so if we could count all infections correctly). The mortality numbers have remained under earlier peaks, but are nevertheless considerable. 

Against this backdrop, a number of questions arise:

  • What are the latest global patterns on newly confirmed cases? 
  • Where are the new hotspots? 
  • What are the differences across countries and over time? 
  • What are the implications of the scale of infection for the future course of the pandemic?

Below is a list of posts on the Omicron escalation, which are updated daily:

Theme #3: Global vaccine equity

The third theme is the unmet need for global vaccine equity, the importance of which pandem-ic has sought to emphasize since the inception of this resource. The road towards vaccine equity across countries has been long and it remains long as the persistent gaps in vaccine coverage continue to remind us. The greatest shortfalls in primary vaccination are registered among the lower-income countries. Meanwhile, booster programs are being rolled out around the world and they seem to follow the exact same patterns of inequality that marked the primary vaccination campaign. 

Today we count 2.3 billion people who have not yet received a single COVID-19 vaccine shot. The above cartogram shows where the unvaccinated live. With land mass distorted to represent the head count of the unvaccinated, it illustrates the main locus of the vaccination challenge: Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In relative terms, however, the challenge is most intense in Sub-Saharan Africa as the colors of the chart suggest. 

The material published on global vaccine equity addresses the following questions:

  • How to compare vaccination progress across countries correctly? 
  • How to think conceptually about globalvaccine equity? 
  • What is the latest status on primary and booster vaccination? 
  • How well is the global priority group protected? 
  • What are the characteristics of countries that do well and do less well? 

Below is a list of posts on the Omicron escalation, which are updated daily:

See also the following articles on global vaccine equity published originally elsewhere and republished here:

A parting note

While these three thematic areas are presented as separate themes, they are of course intimately connected. The various posts attempt to bring out these connections. For example, the need for global vaccine equity is accentuated by the understated severity of the pandemic in the developing world. This is why it is useful to jointly examine excess mortality and undervaccination. Also, while Omicron appears to be less lethal within the context of more fully immunized populations, its high degree of transmissivity nevertheless has meant that the Omicron escalation has proven to be severe in many locations.

So much for this overview of the main themes of this site. 

Comments and suggestions are welcome!