- The vaccine rollout was the fastest in global history
Never before have so many people been vaccinated in one year against a single disease than were vaccinated against Covid-19 in 2021.
The innovative technology underpinning many of these vaccines, mRNA, has the potential to unlock a whole new era of disease prevention (what some call the ‘RNAissance’).
COVAX – the Covid-19 vaccine sharing initiative – delivered more than one billion Covid-19 vaccine doses around the world and 90 per cent of these were fully-funded doses to poor countries.
- We now have enough vaccines to cover all health workers and older people globally
What an achievement! Recent modelling found that providing mRNA doses for every person in lower-middle and low-income countries would save 1.2 million lives this year. But inequity in access remains a challenge: 61.8 per cent of the global population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, compared to only 10.6 per cent of people in low-income countries.
- There were five astonishing health wins in the last year alone
In 2021, the Philippines ended its polio outbreak, Niger became the first African country to eradicate river blindness, and China was officially declared malaria-free after a mammoth 70-year effort to eradicate the disease.
Last year the WHO also approved the world’s first malaria vaccine, a disease that kills a child under five every minute.
Assistive technology for people with a disability also took a giant leap forward in 2021, with advances in brain-computer interfaces making it possible for a paralysed man to write just by thinking.
- Action on climate change
Renewable energy is growing faster than ever, with another year of record growth in 2021. In fact, renewables are set to account for almost 95 per cent of the increase in global power capacity over the next four years.
India’s government is banning all single-use plastics from July this year – a huge reform for the world’s second most populous country.
- Increased empathy and compassion – the pandemic’s ‘silver lining’
The pandemic has united us in shared experience and reminded us of our shared humanity. For example, pandemic hardship helped make domestic students more compassionate for their overseas peers. The 2021 Lowy Institute Poll found that the vast majority of Australians (83 per cent) support helping Pacific island countries pay for Covid-19 vaccines and 60 per cent supported doing the same for Southeast Asian nations.
And Australians have given generously, with World Vision finding that people in Melbourne and Sydney were up to 50 per cent more likely to sponsor a child – during the harshest of lockdowns.
These are history defying achievements in any year, and what makes them even more remarkable is that took place during unprecedented disruption.