THE GLOBAL death toll from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has reached 4 million, as a growing disparity in vaccine access leaves poorer nations exposed to outbreaks of more infectious strains.

Even as rapid vaccine rollouts allow life to start to return to normal in countries like the UK and US, it’s taken just 82 days for the latest million deaths, compared to 92 days for the previous million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The real toll could be far higher than reported because of inconsistent calculations around the world.

The developing world is shouldering a rising death toll. India accounted for 26% of the increase from 3 million to 4 million deaths, and Brazil about 18%. By comparison, the US, where more than 332 million shots have been administered, accounted for about 4% of the rise. The UK accounted for just 1,000 of the extra deaths, the data showed.

The US and UK had accounted for a far higher share of new deaths worldwide prior to April, reflecting how fast vaccination has brought about stunning turnarounds in their pandemic performances over the past three months.

“Vaccine equity is the greatest immediate moral test of our times,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement marking the gloomy milestone. “It is also a practical necessity. Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone is under threat.”

“The tragic loss of 4 million people to this pandemic must drive our urgent efforts to bring it to an end for everyone, everywhere,” he said.

Mr. Guterres said he will call on all countries with vaccine production capacity, the World Health Organization, and international financial institutions able to deal with the relevant pharmaceutical companies to create an Emergency Task Force to at least double vaccine production and ensure equitable distribution.

The spread of the more transmissible delta variant is also causing outbreaks in rich countries where vaccination rates are lagging. Sydney, Australia’s largest city, on Wednesday extended its lockdown for at least a week to stamp out an outbreak that has now reached almost 400 cases. Taiwan, which had largely suppressed the virus through 2020, now has lost more than 700 lives after a resurgence earlier this year.

Meanwhile, Mexico, which has the world’s fourth-highest overall death toll, saw its share of the latest million deaths drop about 5 percentage points from the previous million, the likely result of post-infection immunity, some vaccination and proximity to the US.

Peru, already one of the hardest-hit countries during the pandemic, updated its official death toll in June, adding more than 110,000 fatalities than previously reported. The South American nation contributed about 4% of the latest million deaths.

While Thailand had registered barely 100 deaths when the global toll reached 3 million, a surge in infections has sent the toll to more than 2,000, threatening the nation’s target to fully reopen in about 100 days.

Other Southeast Asian nations have also seen deaths climb. Malaysia and the Philippines each added more than 3,000 fatalities since the previous global milestone was reached in April. — Bloomberg