The world’s richest countries are on track to accumulate over 1 billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need to fully vaccinate all their citizens, according to new analysis from ONE’s Policy team. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has only been able to secure 2.5 billion doses of the most promising vaccines — leaving billions of people with little hope of receiving a vaccine this year. These excess doses purchased by rich countries alone would be sufficient to vaccinate the entire adult population of Africa.
This huge vaccine excess is the embodiment of vaccine nationalism, with countries prioritizing their own vaccination needs at the expense of other countries and the global recovery. Rich countries understandably hedged their bets on vaccines early in the pandemic. These bets are paying off, and it remains a major scientific accomplishment to have several COVID vaccines one year into the pandemic. But a massive course correction is needed if we are going to protect billions of people around the world.
The leaders of wealthy nations will not be doing any favors for their own citizens or the rest of the world if they stockpile vaccines. If the virus can thrive in any part of the world, the risk of new variants increases, and it is only a matter of time before strains emerge that undermine the vaccines and tools that have been developed to fight COVID-19.
None of us are out of the woods until we have beaten this virus everywhere. Here’s why we need global vaccine access, and how world leaders can step up to get us there.
Why global vaccine access to matters
As long as the virus remains unchecked anywhere on the planet, it will continue to mutate, breach borders, and wreak havoc on communities and the global economy. There could be twice as many deaths from COVID-19 if rich countries monopolize the first doses of vaccines instead of making sure they are distributed globally.
Vaccine hoarding could cost the global economy up to US$9.2 trillion — and rich countries will bear half those costs because of supply chain disruptions and demand shocks.
Each new infection is an opportunity for mutation. Already there are over 4,000 variants of COVID-19 and some variants – like the South African and UK variants – are proving more transmissible than other strains. Each new strain presents a higher risk of the disease evolving to an extent where current vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments no longer work.
The only way to prevent new and possibly more dangerous variants is to dramatically slow transmission of the virus through widespread vaccination.
How to protect everyone, everywhere
The good news is that G7 leaders have the chance to seize this opportunity. If they can agree to a fast, fair, and effective way to share excess doses with other countries as soon as they come off the production line, they could really supercharge the global fight against this virus. The quicker we can protect the whole world, the sooner this pandemic ends for all of us and we can begin the task of rebuilding and getting our lives back on track.
Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, the US, and the EU should adopt and commit to act on the Principles for Sharing COVID-19 Vaccine Doses and commit to partner with COVAX to ensure equitable redistribution of shared doses.
These nation’s leaders must also project when national vaccination programs will hit 20% coverage and put plans in place to start sharing excess doses simultaneously thereafter. They must also refrain from contractual provisions in bilateral deals that prevent vaccine donations to other countries.
More about ONE’s research
How did we reach these data points? Our analysis defined “excess doses” as the amount of the procured doses of the five leading vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Janssen (J&J), and Novavax — that give countries more than enough doses to vaccinate 100% of their populations.
This conservative approach found that five countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, and the US) plus the EU block of 27 countries could share close to 1 billion doses of leading COVID-19 vaccines with other countries and still retain enough supply to inoculate their entire populations. Dive deeper in our policy report.