As vaccinations get underway in the United Kingdom, United States and other rich countries who could afford to pre-purchase doses of the COVID-19 vaccines, researchers warn that about a quarter of the world’s population will be unable to be vaccinated until 2022.
There are 13 vaccine manufacturers working on coronavirus vaccines, and they are capable of producing around 6 billion courses of vaccine by the end of 2021.
“Just over half (51%) of these doses will go to high income countries, which represent 14% of the world’s population,” researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health wrote in their report, published in the British Medical Journal.
"Of the 13 manufacturers, only six have sold to low and middle-income countries,” they noted.
At the time of the report, the U.S. had reserved 800 million doses of the vaccine. Japan and Australia, which account for fewer than 1% of the world’s COVID-19 cases, have reserved and potential options to get 1 billion doses.
“Even if all 13 of these vaccine manufacturers were to succeed in reaching their maximum production capacity, at least a fifth of the world’s population would not have access to vaccines until 2022,” researchers noted.
Covax, a global effort organized by the World Health Organization, had made initial purchases of 300 million vaccine doses. Covax is working to create equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments and vaccines for all countries. President Donald Trump’s administration said they would not participate in the effort.
"This study provides an overview of how high-income countries have secured future supplies of COVID-19 vaccines, but that access for the rest of the world is uncertain," the researchers concluded. "Governments and manufacturers might provide much-needed assurances for the equitable allocation of COVID-19 vaccines through greater transparency and accountability over these arrangements."