In contrast, Covax – the World Health Organization’s support for equitable distribution – aims to provide enough doses to cover up to 20 percent of people in participating countries by the end of 2021, but may not achieve this relatively modest purpose, experts warn.
The gap between “having” and “not” vaccines is widening, fueling frustration and potentially expanding the pandemic.
“This is bad faith,”
So far, the vaccine race has been dominated by a handful of relatively wealthy countries: mostly Israel, where nearly 57 percent of the population was fully vaccinated by April 7; Chile, at about 22 percent; and USA. The UK is also vaccinating quickly, but is postponing second doses as it tries to get the first to as many people as possible.
Meanwhile, Our World in Data estimates are based on publicly reported data that at least 5 percent of the world’s population has had a dose, with the actual number (including non-public data from China) being between 6 and 7 percent.
Priority supply deals, export restrictions and other means of accumulation by rich countries have contributed to a serious global supply crisis and left many countries at loggerheads.
Covax has delivered 38 million doses, providing potentially life-saving photos of places and people without whom they could otherwise pass. Yet divided between 100 economies, these doses represent only a thin layer of protection.
“It’s gratifying to see a small number of doses reaching countries around the world,” said Sueri Moon, co-director of the Global Health Center at the Institute for International Research and Development in Geneva. “But the big picture is more disturbing than reassuring because we have a lot of things going wrong.”
While the United States administers millions of inoculations a day, some countries are still waiting for their first photos to arrive or have just started vaccinating. A recent WHO estimate suggests that only 2 percent of the 690 million doses administered to date have gone to Africa.
A chorus of experts and officials has argued – for months – that rich countries have not only a moral obligation to reduce the gap, but also an interest in doing so. They argue that with a small portion of the world’s population, the global economy will not recover and the virus will mutate and spread.
Finance Minister Janet Yellen on Monday called for speeding up distribution to poorer nations, warning that a pandemic could force 150 million people into poverty and damage growth.
“Our first task must be to stop the virus by ensuring that vaccinations, tests and therapies are available as widely as possible,” she told the Chicago Board of Global Affairs.
That same day, as he introduced a new coordinator for the global coronavirus response and health security, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken addressed the danger of options.
“Even if we vaccinate all 332 million people in the United States tomorrow, we will still not be completely safe from the virus, nor while it is still multiplying around the world and becoming new variants that can easily come here and spread again. in our communities, “he said.
However, Blinken defended efforts to vaccinate Americans first and suggested that further action would have to wait until the United States was more confident in its supply of vaccines.
“I know that many countries want the United States to do more, some with growing despair over the scale and scale of their emergencies,” he said. “We hear you. And I promise to move as fast as possible. ”
The woman he introduced as the new global coronavirus response coordinator, Gail Smith, was the CEO of ONE Campaign, a non-profit organization that called on rich countries to donate 5 percent of their overdoses after vaccinating 20 percent of their population.
For its part, the Biden administration announced a “loan” of a combined 4 million doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine – not yet approved by US regulators – to Mexico and Canada. However, it is unclear whether and when the administration will offer a significant portion of the hundreds of millions of overdoses the country has provided.
A recent study of 788 Americans by researchers at the University of the British Commonwealth in Virginia found strong support for the idea of donating 10 percent or more of U.S. supplies to less prosperous countries, but opinions were divided over time. While 41 percent of respondents say donations should happen immediately, 28 percent want to wait until Americans at risk are vaccinated, and 31 percent say donations should only happen after everyone in the U.S. who wants to be vaccinated, have been.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered to donate doses to 20 foreign allies in February, but the plan was delayed in the face of domestic repulses and lawsuits.
The Biden administration’s moves so far have focused on longer-term efforts to strengthen global deployment.
In February, the White House backed Covax, announcing funding of up to $ 4 billion, including an initial $ 2 billion contribution that Congress made in December.
And last month, the United States, India, Japan and Australia pledged to produce and distribute up to 1 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines, focusing on Southeast Asia. But the schedule is long in order for things to start before the end of next year.
So far, the Biden administration has resisted pressure to relinquish patent protection in a way that would allow more countries to develop coronavirus vaccines.
However, recent Blinken statements suggest that a new initiative could be prepared.
“The clock is ticking,” Moon said, “and the situation is not improving.”