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The Editors

Omicron Should Be a Wake-Up Call for the World

The longer developing nations remain unvaccinated, the greater the danger of new variants emerging. Closing the gap will require focusing on vaccine demand as well as supply.

A health-care worker prepares vaccine doses in Cape Town.

A health-care worker prepares vaccine doses in Cape Town.

Photographer: Dwayne Senior/Bloomberg

Scientists don’t yet know where the new coronavirus strain dubbed omicron first developed, or even whether it was incubated in humans or animals. Still, two things are clear. The yawning gap in vaccinations between rich and poor countries only increases the risk of more such variants emerging. And bridging that divide will require focusing on demand as much as supply.

High-minded pledges from rich countries and exhortations from global-health officials have barely made a dent in the problem. Almost no low-income countries are on track to meet the World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40% of their populations by the end of this year. Among the 92 countries covered by the WHO’s Covax initiative, the median vaccination rate is only 14%.