The single biggest moral and scientific failure during this global crisis is vaccine inequity.
Just over 5 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered globally. But only 1.6% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. This shameful inequity is getting worse by the day. Rich nations are offering third (booster) doses to their citizens, even as 3.5 billion people are waiting for their first dose (my Sirius XM podcast dives deeper).
The series of images below tell the story behind the great vaccine apartheid — the single biggest moral and scientific failure during this global crisis.
Exhibit 1: What share of the population has received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine?
This graph from Our World in Data shows vaccination coverage of 60 – 70% in many rich nations, while several countries in the African continent have less than 2% coverage, even with a single dose.
Exhibit 2: The widening gap between high-income and low-income countries
This graph from Our World in Data shows a rapidly increasing coverage in high-income countries (HIC), while the trend is virtually flat for low-income countries (LIC).
Exhibit 3: Slow pace of progress in LMICs
This graph from pandem-ic shows that UMICs are catching up quickly to HICs, but LMICs and especially LICs have not improved much.
Exhibit 4: Countries that need vaccines are not getting them
This graph, from a Nature paper by Amy Maxmen, shows the unequal distribution of vaccination as a scatter plot. While many rich nations are offering booster doses, “on the African continent, where only 2% of people have been vaccinated, COVID-19 rates are escalating, with fatality rates higher than the global average.”
Exhibit 5: Confirmed doses procured
This chart by the Launch & Scale Speedometer (Duke University) shows which countries have procured vaccine doses (confirmed doses). Again, HICs have the largest number of confirmed doses.
Exhibit 6: Secured Vaccines and/or Expected Vaccine Supply (% of population)
The IMF-WHO COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Tracker provides data on Secured Vaccines and/or Expected Vaccine Supply (% of population). Countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, USA are among the countries that have secured vaccines to cover 200 – 400% of the population.
Exhibit 7: Delays in vaccine access will cost lives and money
This analysis by the EIU shows that while rich countries have vaccinated their populations ahead of others, many LICs, especially in Africa, will only achieve widespread coverage by 2023. A model built by the EIU shows that those countries that will not have vaccinated 60% of their population by mid-2022 will register GDP losses totaling US$2.3 trillion in 2022-25.
Exhibit 8: Who has surplus vaccines?
This analysis, published in the BMJ (corrected graphic below) shows the number of surplus doses that could accumulate by the end of 2022 in the 10 locations with the greatest potential waste. Billions of doses of vaccines purchased by rich nations are due to expire.
Exhibit 9: Is COVAX receiving the donations pledged?
In June, the G7 pledged substantial vaccine donations to COVAX, the program that was designed to support LMICs in procuring vaccines. However, only 10% of the G7 pledges have been delivered so far, per information shared by chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
Exhibit 10: Why is vaccine equity so critical?
In my previous post, I had offered 10 powerful reasons why all of us must demand vaccine equity. One reason I had cited was uncontrolled outbreaks anywhere will generate more variants & mutant strains. Emerging research shows that mass vaccination is a powerful way of preventing new variants. In this study (pre-print), vaccination coverage rate was inversely correlated to the mutation frequency of the SARS-CoV-2 delta variants in 16 of 20 countries studied.
Overall, the widening chasm of vaccine inequity has devastating consequences, especially with the Delta variant ripping through populations. Millions of people will die, and trillions of dollars will be lost. Addressing this inequity MUST be a top priority for everyone, regardless of where they live.
This article was first published at Nature Microbiology and is reproduced here by permission.