Saccording to a compilation of New York Times published Tuesday, “if all the doses they requested were delivered, the European Union could vaccinate its residents twice, Britain and the United States four times, and Canada six times.”
This is because several countries have, in recent months, “pre-ordered” millions of doses from more than one company, since no one then knew which vaccine would be ready before the others.
The rich countries “have emptied the shelves”, summarizes Andrea Taylor, a researcher at Duke University (North Carolina) who studies these “pre-orders”.
“Even if African governments had the money to put on the table, which most do not have, they could not have the vaccine”, adds in the review Science global health specialist John Amuasi, University of Kumasi, Ghana.
The result is that at the current rate of production, the worst-case scenario is that some countries may have to wait until 2024 to see a substantial proportion of their population be vaccinated.
Unless there are mechanisms in place to ship “surpluses” faster. But even that could take time: Right now, the first licensed vaccine, that of Pfizer and BioNTech, may not be enough to meet the demand of all rich countries in 2021, which means they will want wait until a second, or even a third, vaccine is approved, before making a decision on what they are prepared to give abroad.
India is among those who will fare better in 2021, notes the Times, this country being able to count on its own pharmaceutical production capacity. But at the other end of the spectrum, we find countries like Egypt, Turkey or Argentina, whose orders will only allow a third of the population to be vaccinated in 2021, or even 10%, in cases like Kazakhstan or Bangladesh.
China has pledged to make its vaccine, not yet officially licensed, accessible to developing countries. The World Health Organization, for its part, created earlier this year a fund, open to public and private donations, to finance the sending of one billion doses to the 92 poorest countries. The initiative, called Covax (COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access), has encouraged the development of less expensive vaccines – the most advanced at present is that of AstraZeneca. But fundraising is slow (the United States is among those who have not paid anything yet), and even a billion doses would only meet a quarter of the needs.