More than 600 million people worldwide have been at least partially vaccinated against Covid-19 — meaning that more than seven billion still have not. It is a striking achievement in the shadow of a staggering challenge.
Half of all the doses delivered so far have gone into the arms of people in countries with one-seventh of the world’s people, primarily the United States and European nations. Dozens of countries, particularly in Africa, have barely started their inoculation campaigns.
As wealthy countries envision the pandemic retreating within months — while poorer ones face the prospect of years of suffering — frustration has people around the world asking why more vaccine isn’t available.
Nationalism and government actions do much to help explain the stark inequity between the world’s haves and have-nots. So, for that matter, does government inaction. And the power of the pharmaceutical companies, which at times seem to hold all the cards, cannot be ignored.
said Sarah Schiffling, an expert on pharmaceutical supply chains and humanitarian relief at Liverpool John Moores University in Britain. “We’re adding this on top. We’re basically doubling output. Supply chains of this magnitude usually take years to accomplish.”
Covax, the global effort to supply vaccines to the developing world at little or no cost.
But some of the pledges have not been fulfilled as yet. And in any case they amount to a small fraction of what the wealthy nations have spent on themselves, and a small fraction of the global need.
The Covax campaign also lost some ground when concerns emerged that the AstraZeneca shot — which was expected to be the backbone of the effort — might be tied to very rare but serious side effects. That led to some public wariness over using it.
Many public health advocates have called for Western governments to force drug makers to share their own patented processes with the rest of the world. No vaccine producer has done so voluntarily, and no government has indicated that it will move in that direction.