The supply to poorer countries is low mostly because the majority of the available vaccines have been purchased or promised to richer countries in North America and Europe. To address this vaccine inequity, a coalition of international organizations, including the World Health Organization and governments, created a nonprofit called Covax in April 2020.
The idea was to create a global supply of vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries. In December, the nonprofit announced that it had secured access to some 2 billion doses for 2021 through donations and commitments from some manufacturers, but it is unclear how many of those will actually be delivered this year. The problem becomes more complicated because many countries are both working through Covax and trying to secure deals with drug makers themselves—making it more challenging for Covax to make deals with those manufacturers at the same time.
The group aims to vaccinate about 20% of the people in the world, focusing on hard-to-reach populations in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. To do so, it needs another $4.9 billion in addition to the $2.1 billion it has already raised. But there are other problems. The cheaper and easier-to-transport vaccines like the ones pledged by AstraZeneca have been slower to gain regulatory approval. Meanwhile, other companies seem less interested in pitching in: Doctors Without Borders found that only 2% of Pfizer’s global supply had been granted to Covax, and Moderna is still “in talks” with the organization.
Author(s): Katharine Gammon
Publication Date: 13 February 2021
Publication Site: MIT Technology Review