Vaccination of the Nation

To date Australia has fared relatively well by international standards in terms of its COVID-19 infection rates. Now, however, its vaccination progress does not compare so favourably to other countries. Charts showing Australia languishing at the bottom of a vaccination league table have been circulating widely online. The specimen below, which appeared in last weekend’s Saturday Paper, is a typical example.

(Click image to expand for full view)

The challenge when producing charts like this is that there are far too many countries to squeeze onto a bar chart, requiring a somewhat arbitrary choice of the countries to include. This chart suggests that Australia’s full vaccination rate is the worst and Chile’s is the best. Australia does not in fact have the lowest rate in the world, although it is the lowest among OECD countries. Chile, at the other end, is certainly doing very well, but is not the best in the world – that honour sits with Gibraltar (or Malta if we restrict to sovereign nations). Even considering only OECD countries, the chart omits Iceland and Israel which are both a little ahead of Chile.

So, how can we get a better picture covering all countries around the world? One approach is to use a map instead of a bar chart. The map below shows countries grouped into quintiles (five of them, of course), ranging from the 20% of countries with the lowest rates of vaccination through to the 20% of countries with the highest rates. On this basis, with a full vaccination rate of 7%, Australia just scrapes into the middle quintile along with countries with full vaccination rates ranging from 6-18%. So Australia may not be last in this “race”, but the countries with lower rates are all far poorer than Australia.

The striking band of top quintile blue between Russia and China is Mongolia, which has an interesting story behind its vaccination success (thanks to Dan for alerting me to that article).

World Map of Vaccination Rate Quintiles
(Click image to expand for full view)

Some notes on the data:

  1. The data here is all sourced from Our World in Data (OWID), which in turn sources data from national authorities. A significant number of countries do not appear in the dataset and these are likely to be countries with very low rates of vaccination. If this data were available it would push up Australia’s ranking.
  2. “Countries” includes dependencies (such as Gibraltar) and disputed territories not just widely recognised sovereign nations.
  3. OWID reports a vaccination rate for Gibraltar of over 100%. This appears to be because vaccination figures include guest workers and, given Gibraltar’s small population, this has a big impact on the rate. Since there continue to be some cases of COVID-19 among unvaccinated people in Gibraltar, the true rate must be below 100% but as I have seen some estimates that the figure is more like 90%, Gibraltar is probably still in the lead.

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3 thoughts on “Vaccination of the Nation

  1. JamesG

    Welcome back. Some thoughts:
    1. I wonder if it is possible to plot the above map using a population weighted cartogram?
    2. If you plot the following data from OWID downloaded on 29/6/2021 for OECD countries the R^2 is 0.39. The plot of vaccination rates vs case rates is consistent with a significant driver of vaccination rates being case rates, at least for well off OECD countries. My hypothesis is that countries that have seen a lot of Covid have governments with more imperative to vaccinate sooner and perhaps lower rates of vaccine hesitancy. 5 of the 6 lowest case rate countries: Australia, NZ, Japan, South Korea and Mexico are also the 5 lowest vaccinated countries. The other is Finland which according to Monty Python is the country “where I want to be” because it has “Pony trekking or camping or just watching T.V.” All socially distant activities which may explain their low case numbers.

    1. vaccination rates should be 200 per 100 people for a fully vaccinated pop’n ie where everyone has had two jabs.
    2. Iceland Colombia are excluded.

    Country total_cases_per_million total_vaccinations_per_hundred
    New Zealand 567.99 21.14
    Australia 1,197.18 28.73
    South Korea 3,034.42 36.68
    Japan 6,294.27 31.77
    Finland 17,160.95 75.82
    Mexico 19,434.88 33.94
    Norway 24,088.21 72.09
    Canada 37,639.79 94.05
    Greece 40,382.11 77.70
    Germany 44,572.85 86.12
    Ireland 54,935.44 74.52
    Turkey 64,134.30 56.64
    United Kingdom 69,950.27 113.09
    Italy 70,425.74 82.52
    Slovakia 71,717.33 62.26
    Austria 72,199.88 82.55
    Latvia 72,744.07 58.39
    Poland 76,087.09 75.16
    Spain 80,900.02 83.00
    Chile 80,931.48 117.67
    Switzerland 81,171.35 80.68
    Portugal 85,767.59 80.46
    France 86,317.42 77.35
    Belgium 93,400.51 90.54
    Israel 97,150.25 123.64
    Estonia 98,729.10 70.20
    Netherlands 99,853.26 83.59
    United States 101,586.56 96.68
    Lithuania 102,367.45 81.37
    Sweden 107,819.28 71.58
    Luxembourg 112,783.88 81.89
    Slovenia 123,736.61 70.17

  2. Stubborn Mule Post author

    James: I used QGIS to produce the map and, while it focuses on producing very accurate maps, I believe there is a cartogram plugin, so I will look into that. Good point on the correlation: I suspect that low case rates can lead to complacency on vaccines but as many countries have found, the case rate can get away from you very quickly. On the vaccination rates, OWID publishes two different figures: “total_vaccinations_per_hundred” and “people_fully_vaccinated_per_hundred”, the former would be around 200% for full vaccination (although I’m not sure how they’ve treated the one shot J&J vaccine) but the latter – which is the one I used for the map – would be 100%.

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