Latin America & COVID-19
By: Malcolm Dorson, Senior Portfolio Manager
Despite facing fiscal deficits and polarizing political landscapes, Countries in Latin America have led Emerging Markets and much of the world regarding vaccination rates. As of December 7th, Chile leads the region with 85% of its population fully vaccinated, while Argentina and Brazil have inoculated 67% and 65% of their populations, respectively. These countries have found success due to:
- The variety of vaccines they’ve made available.
- The advantages of urbanization in rapid distribution campaigns.
- Experience fighting other viruses leading to a lack of an anti-vax movement.
At first glance, Brazil stands out as a success story, but it should be in an even better position given its history and infrastructure. Brazil’s initial challenges came from political headwinds. The country was slow in securing vaccination doses and suffered from controversial political views. President Bolsonaro called the virus a “little flu” and continued to attend public events without a mask. This precedent contributed to the slow vaccination rollout and a high death rate, but eventually, these tragic outcomes themselves brought concern to the population. At least 1 in 343 residents have died from COVID-19, a total of 616,000 deaths as of December 7th. On April 6th, daily COVID-19 deaths hit a record high of 4,000 new deaths. These numbers provided a catalyst for a pick-up in vaccinations, especially as many Brazilians live in multi-generational households. However, given Brazil’s healthcare infrastructure, the situation should never have been so dire.
The Brazilian government created the National Immunization Program in 1973, amidst an economic period known as Import Substitution Industrialization (ISI). This investment was born out of the country’s desire to become self-sufficient and create a domestic-driven economy. The program led various other vaccination campaigns against viruses like Polio, Malaria, Spanish Flue, Dengue Fever, and Zika, improving the organization and distribution of millions of vaccines in a short period. In addition to the Immunization Program, Brazil also benefits from a decentralized National Healthcare system, which allows for rapid regional implementation. The principle that the government provides free health care for all Brazilian citizens was an essential addition to the 1988 Constitution making health a citizen’s right. Free vaccines also remove a key obstacle. Brazil has a vaccination capacity of roughly 2.4 million people per day. The country has done well in catching up and surpassing the vaccination rates of many developed countries, but the slow start was a seemingly avoidable tragedy.
Mexico presents a different situation. Though Mexico boasts the strongest fiscal balance in Latin America, it suffered from bottlenecks in acquiring vaccines, which translated into lower vaccination rates versus its Latin American peers. However, the country still has 51% of its population fully vaccinated, which is above average for Emerging Market countries, and continues to distribute doses rapidly. Mexico did not face any anti-vax movement. In Mexico, vaccines are also free, and the country has supplied a variety of doses. Mexico has approved nine different vaccines with five others in clinical trials.
With 85% of Chileans fully inoculated, Chile has the second-highest level of vaccinations across Emerging Markets and is one of the best globally. From the beginning, obtaining vaccines was a priority in Chile. The country sought deals with various drug makers and participated in phase 3 clinical trials, giving the government an edge in negotiating doses. Chile also boasts a history of successful vaccination campaigns. Healthcare infrastructure is a crucial driver of its success. Chile has an extensive national health system and an immunization program, which keeps public records allowing CHile to stay up to date on its population. Like in the US, the government made vaccinations free and convenient by setting up vaccination sites in public spaces such as parking lots and stadiums. The country’s Health Ministry publishes a calendar that clearly states who is eligible for a vaccine and when, and no appointment is necessary. All of the above showed organization, willingness, and compliance to keep Chileans safe.
A Strong Recovery
When thinking about Covid-19 success in Emerging Markets, most jump to the 2020 success in China, Taiwan, and South Korea. These countries did very well with quarantines, mask compliance, and controlling the virus. In 2021, Latin America stood out as the region with the most success in combatting COVID-19 through successful vaccination campaigns. The combination of urbanization rates, healthcare infrastructure, and experience all benefit the common goal of vaccinating populations across Latin American countries. As of November 30th, Latin America surpassed 70% fully vaccinated.
For a list of the top ten holdings of the Emerging Markets Great Consumer Fund as of the most recent quarter-end click here. Holdings are subject to change at any time.
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