London, NY beat Asian finance hubs in race to inoculate public

For cities, vaccinating substantial portion of populations is only way to get back to normal

Swimmers taking to the waters yesterday in Hampton Lido in London, on the first day that outdoor pools were open following the easing of lockdown curbs amid the coronavirus pandemic in Britain.
Swimmers taking to the waters yesterday in Hampton Lido in London, on the first day that outdoor pools were open following the easing of lockdown curbs amid the coronavirus pandemic in Britain.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON/NEW YORK • The financial capitals hit hardest by Covid-19 are pulling ahead in the race to vaccinate their residents.

London has outpaced global peers when measured by the percentage of residents inoculated with at least one dose, while Asian hubs like Hong Kong and Tokyo that recorded fewer infections are lagging far behind, according to the latest data available from each city's government as of March 24.

The British capital had covered roughly 2.9 million people - about 30 per cent of its population - with one dose, compared with 23 per cent of residents who had received their first doses in New York, 13 per cent in Singapore and 12 per cent in Paris.

London's higher rate has been fuelled in part by a strategy of draining its entire initial vaccine supply on the first round, and waiting for more batches before giving people their second shots.

But New York topped London in another key metric: It has fully inoculated more people, completing vaccination courses for 11 per cent of its population compared with just 2.3 per cent of London's residents. The US city began administering Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine earlier this month.

The vaccine race is of particular importance in competitive global financial hubs that rely on the free flow of capital and talent, and getting a substantial portion of their populations vaccinated is the only way to get back to normal.

While many pandemic hot spots like the US and Britain are working to inoculate people as quickly as possible, governments in the Asia-Pacific and some parts of Europe are dealing with widespread hesitation after reports of serious side effects and deaths - no more so than in Hong Kong, where only 5.3 per cent of its population have come forward for a shot. The former British colony has also temporarily suspended BioNTech's vaccines after packaging defects were found.

China's financial centre Shanghai has vaccinated 6.2 per cent of its population with at least one dose. The lower percentage must take into account Shanghai's population of more than 24 million, which dwarfs those of London, Paris and New York.

China, which has largely contained the pandemic, has said it aims to inoculate 40 per cent of its population before the end of June.

Tokyo's tally reflects the fact that Japan has not yet begun widespread vaccinations, even as the city prepares to host the Covid-delayed Summer Olympics in July and August this year.

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    2.9 million

    Number of people - about 30 per cent of its population - London had covered with one vaccine dose. That is compared with 23 per cent of residents who had received their first doses in New York, 13 per cent in Singapore and 12 per cent in Paris.

Japan is currently limiting vaccines to healthcare workers and plans to inoculate the general public, starting with those 65 or older, in mid-April. So far, less than 1 per cent of the country's population has received a first dose.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2021, with the headline 'London, NY beat Asian finance hubs in race to inoculate public'. Subscribe