US President Joe Biden will lead a summit on Wednesday (22/09), at which he will ask world leaders to commit to vaccinating 70% of the world’s population against the coronavirus by September next year.
But research shows that rich countries still have vaccine surpluses, many of which may soon end up wasted, while some countries still haven’t vaccinated even 2% of their population.
On her way to Iran a few months ago, Bahar was excited to see her father for the first time in four years.
She had no idea that the coronavirus was about to destroy the country – and her family – in a second deadly wave. The first to die is a family friend, who was preparing for her son’s wedding when she fell ill.
Then came her father’s uncle and elderly aunt. Bahr was very worried about her grandmother, who had only taken one dose of the vaccine and was still waiting for the second one.
She is 20 years old and lives in the US, where she was vaccinated in April.
Although she knew she was somehow protected, she spent the last days of her trip to Iran isolated at her father’s house, worrying about who might catch the virus next. Few members of his family have been vaccinated, as there is little stock of immunization equipment in Iran.
Soon after returning to the United States, she found out that her father was ill. She was distant and afraid. “It’s like a survivor’s fault,” she says. “I left Iran completely fine and in good health only because I received two injections of the Pfizer vaccine.” Your father eventually recovered, but many older relatives did not. “I felt really guilty knowing that.”
This imbalance in the provision of vaccines generates startling statistics. Just over half the world has yet to receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to Human Rights Watch, 75% of Covid vaccines have gone to ten countries. The Economist Intelligence Unit calculated that half of the vaccines manufactured to date have gone to 15% of the world’s population, with the richest countries giving out 100 times more vaccines than the poorest.
In June, members of the Group of Seven – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – pledged to donate 1 billion doses to poor countries next year.
“I smiled when I saw it,” said Agathe Demaris, lead author of a recent report on global vaccine supply at the former Economic and Diplomatic Information Unit. “I’ve been seeing it a lot. You know it’s never going to happen.”
The UK has promised 100 million doses but has so far donated less than nine million. President Biden has pledged $580 million, of which the United States has delivered 140 million so far. The EU bloc promised 250 million doses by the end of the year – about 8% of them sent.
Like many middle-income countries, Iran has purchased vaccines from Covax, a global plan backed by the World Health Organization to distribute doses where they are most needed. Covax buys vaccines and then sells them at low cost to middle-income countries — and donates to poor countries.
But Kovacs faced a major supply problem. The plan planned to distribute 2 billion doses by 2021, most of which would come from a facility in India, but when a second wave of infections hit India in May, the local government banned exports.
Since then, Covax has received potions donated by wealthy nations. And the supply is slowly growing. Some recipient countries have not yet vaccinated 2% of their population.
says Aurelia Nguyen, Managing Director of Kovacs Installation.
This is not a global supply problem. Rich countries have accumulated vaccine surpluses, according to Airfinity, a scientific analysis company that researches the global supply of vaccines. Vaccine manufacturers produce 1.5 billion doses per month. By the end of the year, they will have produced 11 billion doses.
“They’re producing a huge number of doses,” says Matt Linley, chief researcher at Airfinity. “This has grown exponentially in the past three or four months.”
The world’s richest country may have 1.2 billion doses you don’t need — even if you start giving out boosters.
A fifth of those doses – 241 million vaccines – are at risk of being lost if they are not donated soon. The poorest countries will likely not be able to receive these vaccines unless they are at least two months before their expiration date.
“I don’t necessarily think rich countries are greedy,” Linley says. “It’s because they didn’t know which vaccines would work.” So they had to buy several of them.
With its latest research, Airfinity hopes to show governments that there really is a good global supply of vaccines and that they don’t need to keep surpluses. Instead, they can donate what they don’t need now and be sure that more doses will be produced in the coming months.
“They don’t want to be surprised,” says Agath Damari. “It’s also about internal political pressure because a portion of the electorate may not want to see vaccines donated if there is a feeling that they are still needed locally.”
The UK government claims it does not have a stockpile of vaccines and has entered into an agreement with Australia to share four million doses, which will be returned from Australian allocations by the end of the year.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Vaccine supplies and delivery have been carefully managed in the UK to allow everyone who can receive them to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
It’s not just governments that need to act, says Aurelia Nguyen, of Kovacs. “We also need manufacturers to meet their general obligations to Covax and to prioritize us over bilateral agreements with countries that already have sufficient doses.”
“If global vaccine manufacturers are producing 1.5 billion doses a month, the question you have to ask is, why are so few doses getting to poor countries? Where Covax needs more doses, governments should change their place in the waiting list so we can get The doses we ordered before.
For the sailor and his family, these doses are not just numbers. They are real life, friends and family. Every day you hear new stories about someone who died.
When her friends at university said they didn’t want to be vaccinated, she tried to argue with them. But now she can’t do that anymore. It is very annoying.
“I’m just trying to let it go, but it’s really hard to see people not using the privilege they have.”
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