Hogging the shots

By Published April 27, 2021 (Updated December 5, 2021)

Covid-19 exposes global vaccine inequity

Vaccines are our most powerful weapon in the war against Covid-19. But the global fight is being undermined by supply, financing and logistics problems, leaving mostly poorer nations behind as other countries significantly lower deaths and new cases through faster vaccination programmes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed concern that hoarding of vaccines by wealthier countries could impede efforts to end the pandemic.

Covid-19 vaccine doses administered
These figures include the first and second doses

Share of population that has received at least one vaccine dose
(Hover/tap for information)

How vaccines are developed
It can take years, sometimes decades, to develop a safe, and effective vaccine. Success depends on available technology, funding and the pathogen’s resilience. Covid-19 vaccines were deployed less than 12 months after the pandemic was declared, an accelerated process aided by previous virus research, global collaboration and quick approval by regulators. Here are the typical stages of vaccine development.

China’s vaccine goal
China has set a goal of vaccinating 40 per cent of its 1.4 billion people by July, 2021. The ambitious vaccine roll-out has so far only included jabs developed by domestic companies. China has yet to give regulatory approval for 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses made by German firm BioNTech, in what would be the first foreign-made shot to be administered in mainland China. The mRNA vaccine is a two-dose course, so 100 million doses would be enough for 50 million people.

Global vaccine race
Researchers worldwide are developing and testing dozens of Covid-19 vaccine candidates, but most of these efforts will likely fail. Those at the preclinical trial stage have about a 7 per cent chance of succeeding, according to Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of the Gavi vaccine alliance. Ones that make it to clinical trials have about a 20 per cent chance.

Vaccine candidates in clinical trials (as of December 3, 2021)

National vaccine procurement
Some governments pre-ordered enough vaccines to inoculate their citizens several times over, depriving other countries of early shots. Wealthier nations hedged their bets on the most promising vaccines before clinical trials had finished to secure more than enough shots to cover their population. But this forced other countries into a desperate hunt for vaccines, delaying their roll-outs. Here’s a look at the global situation.

Number of doses purchased per inhabitant (% as of November 12)

What is Covax?
Covax is a global initiative for fair distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, which aims to deliver 2 billion doses by the end of 2021. It is led by the WHO, along with Gavi, and is supported by 190 countries. The programme works with vaccine manufacturers and governments pooling resources from countries to allow fair distribution of approved vaccines to all nations, rich and poor. It ultimately aims to guarantee free doses for 92 of the world’s poorest territories.

Ghana became the first country to receive Covax vaccines in February, 2021. Beijing, which has vowed to make Chinese-developed vaccines a “global public good”, joined Covax in October 2020, six months after the programme was launched. Soon after taking office, US President Joe Biden announced the United States would also join. In March 2021, Russia applied for its Sputnik V vaccine to be included. In April, the WHO said it was seeking to bolster its supplies of vaccines for poor countries from new manufacturers as it aims to mitigate supply problems of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India, its main shot so far. The US said it would share with other countries its stock of up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca.

How Covax is meant to work

When will the Covid-19 crisis end?
New global vaccine production data suggests up to 12 billion doses could be available by the end of 2021, enough to vaccinate 70 per cent of the world.

The pandemic could end sooner if drug companies meet production targets and doses are distributed fairly among all nations quickly.

Creative Director Darren Long
Edited by Andrew London

Sources: Our World in Data, Airfinity, Duke Global Health Innovation Center, Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, Agence France-Presse, Reuters

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