New analysis projects world could fall short of new target by 1.2 billion people
OTTAWA — As world leaders meet today at the global COVID-19 summit convened by President Joe Biden, new analysis released by The ONE Campaign highlights the pressing need for countries to seize this opportunity to accelerate efforts to get vaccines around the world. The analysis shows that without a step change in the global approach to COVID-19, almost a third of the world’s population will still be unprotected from the virus in a year’s time.
Leaders participating in the summit will be asked to agree to a new commitment to vaccinate at least 70% of people in each country income category by September 2022. This would be the first time world leaders have endorsed a collective, time-bound goal to control the pandemic. If met, this target would ensure all countries have fair access to vaccines – providing vital protection to people everywhere. However, ONE’s analysis shows that unless wealthy countries urgently increase support for global vaccination efforts, this target will be missed.
The new research shows that if current vaccination rates continue, the target will be missed by a total of 1.2 billion people across 107 countries – leaving more than 2.3 billion people around the world still unvaccinated by September 2022. ONE has warned that failure to meet the proposed target would extend the lifetime of the pandemic – putting more lives at risk, accelerating the proliferation of new dangerous variants and increasing the likelihood of further lockdowns and economic havoc around the world.
Tom Hart, Acting Chief Executive Officer of The ONE Campaign, said: “We welcome the much needed ambition this summit represents, but leaders must remember that simply setting targets won’t end the pandemic – only shots in arms will do that.
With COVID-19 raging globally and new variants emerging, governments must wake up to the truth that the only effective national plan to end the pandemic is a global plan to end the pandemic.
“We are in a race against this virus, and right now, the virus is winning. We must get vaccines to every corner of the earth to stop this virus now. We are past the point of urgency to end this pandemic. Incremental efforts are not going to make a difference. Today’s summit must mark the beginning of a much faster and more ambitious approach to this global crisis – with every country playing its part.”
Note to Editors:
A year and a half into this pandemic, with several highly effective vaccines available, only 6% of people on the African continent have received their first shot compared to 75% in Canada (with 70% of Canadians fully vaccinated).
How can Canada contribute to this new initiative? By doing what experts have long been calling for: share, share, and share!
Canada has so far promised to share a bit over 40 million vaccine doses with COVAX, the global vaccine distribution mechanism, and in a few cases directly with countries. However, so far only 1.3 million of these doses have been delivered to countries that need them. Deliveries need to ramp up massively, and rapidly, especially to allow countries a minimum amount of time to put doses in arms before they expire.
We also still have at least 32 million doses excess doses that we risk stockpiling (and potentially wasting) until the end of the year. This is even if 100% of the population (including those under 12, should vaccines be approved for them soon) gets their two shots.
Should we keep all this excess in case we need third shots? So far NACI has only recommended them for immunocompromised people because there is not enough evidence that they are needed for the general population. More than 200 health experts, academics, and medical professionals also wrote a letter to Dr. Tam and PM Trudeau asking them to support the WHO’s call for a moratorium on boosters for low-risk Canadians until more people have been vaccinated around the world.
Medical experts say that we might need boosters at some point in the future — and in fact Canada has specific booster orders in place for the coming years — but right now the priority should be first shots before third shots. That is: giving first doses to people in Africa (especially frontline health workers who still don’t have their dose) and elsewhere who have not yet received it. Canada still expects millions of doses of Pfizer and Moderna to be delivered over the coming weeks.
This is a recipe for large-scale waste, an intolerable prospect while the pandemic still rages on in many parts of the world.
For the past year a group of more than 100 countries, led by India and South Africa, have been pushing for a temporary suspension on intellectual property rights for vaccines and other tools to fight COVID-19 at the World Trade Organization (the so-called TRIPS waiver). This would allow developing countries to produce their own vaccines more easily, but several rich countries have been blocking it.
Canada is still officially undecided, but if the government is serious in supporting access to vaccines for all around the world, it should stop effectively stalling the process and support the waiver.
This is not a crisis Canada can just cut a cheque to address. The first two “shares” are vitally important, and Canada cannot fulfill the third and ignore the others. So, we cannot celebrate that Canada pledged its fair share until Canada also commits to an immediate dose sharing and knowledge sharing plan.
Yes, Canada has been one of the earliest and biggest financial supporters of the ACT-Accelerator and its vaccine arm, COVAX, one of a few countries that has pledged its fair share of the initial funding target.
We will need to do more. More funding will be needed, not just for vaccines, but for things like PPE, oxygen, tests, and treatments. Until developing countries reach a meaningful share of their population vaccinated, they face the threat of a deadly surge like we saw in India earlier this year, and they need to be prepared and supported.