These Middle Eastern states have administered the jabs to 20.93%, 10.99%, and 5.25% of their populations, respectively, while the US, Denmark, and UK trail further behind at 2.02%, 1.98%, and 1.94%. The rest of the world hovers around 0.5%. (These are based on population estimates from the United Nations World Population Prospects, so other trackers, such as Bloomberg’s, may show slightly different proportions.)
What’s their secret?
First, Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain are small countries with populations of between 1.5 and 9.3 million people. For Israel and parts of the UAE, which are using the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, that’s a logistical boon: Since the vaccine doses need to be stored at -70 to -80 degrees Celsius, short distances are key to preventing spoilage during transit. (Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are using the vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm.)
The countries’ universal healthcare systems are also helping get people vaccinated quickly, says Tinglong Dai, an associate professor of operations management at Johns Hopkins University Carey Business School, because it “makes it easier to match [vaccine] supply and the demand.” Healthcare data are centralized and digitized effectively, so citizens can either access an app or call a hotline and receive an immediate appointment for a jab if they are eligible.
In Israel, every citizen has to be part of one of four major health insurance funds, called HMOs. These funds are incentivized to compete with one another for patients in order to obtain more funding from the government. And Israelis can switch their HMO memberships every six months if they’re not satisfied, so the funds “have every incentive to have their members get vaccines as soon as possible,” Dai explains.
Medical authorities in the three countries approved the jabs early. Bahrain was the second country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, and it approved the Sinopharm vaccine in November. Israel was the third to approve Moderna’s jab on Jan. 5 and it has secured 6 million doses of it already. It certainly helps that the three countries can afford it.