Only vaccine equity will hurry up Covid-end
Safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines were developed in record time
Safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines were developed in record time. But the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines. In the process of spreading faster and wider across the globe, the virus is undergoing several mutations too. We have barely understood the Covid-19 strain. And we are being forced to identify its mutations too at a faster rate. Unfortunately, we were unable to vaccinate all the populations to even think of the booster doses. A vast majority have been administered in high- and upper-middle-income countries. If these doses had been distributed equitably, they would have been enough to cover all health workers and older people globally.
The WHO set a target for all countries to vaccinate 10% of their populations by the end of September. 56 countries effectively excluded from the global vaccine marketplace were not able to reach this target – and most of them are in Africa, reports now suggest. Even more countries are at risk of missing the WHO targets of vaccinating 40% of their population by the year-end, and 70% by mid-2022, The Lancet reports. Most manufacturers have largely spurned the opportunities to share technology and know-how. Naturally, they don't share the technologies. After all, this is a once in a life (read death) time opportunity for them. The manufacturers are all piling up their dollars and euros and other currencies on the bodies of human beings. The moment a new variant is discovered in the world, these manufacturers will come out with a new formula.
The global failure to share vaccines equitably is taking its toll on some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. New variants of concern mean that the risks of infection have increased in all countries for people who are not yet protected by vaccinations. There are enough doses of vaccines globally to drive down transmission and save many lives, if they go to the people who need them most around the world. Worldwide access to Covid-19 vaccines offers the best hope for slowing the coronavirus pandemic, saving lives, and securing a global economic recovery, experts say.
The WHO Strategy to Achieve Global COVID-19 Vaccination by mid-2022 outlines the road we must all take together to achieve the targets of vaccinating 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year, and 70% by the middle of next year. By the end of September, almost six-and-a-half billion doses had already been administered worldwide. With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is enough supply to achieve our targets, provided they are distributed equitably. This is not a supply problem; it's an allocation problem.
Contracts are in place for the remaining 5 billion doses. But it's critical that those doses go where they are needed most – with priority given to older people, health workers and other at-risk groups. Vaccine equity will accelerate the end of the pandemic. Achieving WHO's vaccine equity targets will substantially increase population immunity globally, protect health systems, enable economies to fully restart, and reduce the risk of new variants emerging.