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The world is falling behind in the race for global vaccine access


Less than a year since the COVID-19 pandemic started, AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna have created safe and effective vaccines against the virus, and some nations have begun vaccinating their citizens. Although this is great news and a major scientific achievement, the work isn’t done, and we’re seeing some signs that this accomplishment could be undermined by a failure to get the vaccine everywhere.

The pandemic won’t end with just a vaccine, but when there is global access to it and the people who need it the most get it first, regardless of where they live. Fair global distribution of the vaccines will save lives, help economies recover, and end the pandemic faster for everyone.

Our Vaccine Access Test measures whether countries’ and companies’ actions are bringing us closer to, or further from, global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Since our last update in November 2020, there have been some concerning trends, and a lot of changes to the scores. Here are the latest findings as of January 2021.

The latest findings

Having safe and effective vaccines within a year of the first reported COVID-19 cases is a major and historic scientific achievement, as we now have the tools to beat the virus and end the pandemic. It has shifted the discussion from “if” to “when” we could see an end to the pandemic.

Unfortunately, our Test is showing three trends that could prolong the pandemic by years:

  1. With increasing vaccine deliveries in rich countries, there is a risk for an overreliance on “trickle down” donations as a means of expanding global access.
  2. The increase in competition between rich countries is monopolizing the global supply, which could price multilaterals and poorer countries out of the picture.
  3. Supply remains the biggest barrier to global access.

The quickest way to put an end to the COVID-19 pandemic is to protect people everywhere, starting with healthcare professionals and key workers who put their own lives at risk to protect ours and the most vulnerable.

According to a study from Northeastern University’s MOBS Lab, if rich countries continue to monopolize the first 2 billion doses of the vaccine, there could be twice as many COVID-19 deaths than if the vaccine is distributed equitably. And economically, if only the countries that are currently actively developing a vaccine are able to vaccinate their populations, it could cost the global economy up to $1.2 trillion a year in GDP, according to RAND. Additionally, if low-income countries alone cannot access a COVID-19 vaccine, the world could still lose approximately $153 billion a year in GDP.

The bottom line is that hoarding vaccines in wealthy countries will ultimately slow down the pandemic recovery everywhere for everyone. Ensuring equal vaccine access isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

How scores have changed this month

The following scores have changed as of January 2021:

  • AstraZeneca, BioNTech, CureVac, Turkey, Mexico, Pfizer, and Moderna saw small adjustments to their scores due to updates to previously released deals and new deals.
  • South Africa moved up to the top spot on the Vaccine Access Test, thanks to its first bilateral deal with AstraZeneca.
  • GSK’s score increased by 1 point.
  • Ireland is a newcomer to the test and has entered with a score of 4 out of 9.
  • The European Commission went from being in second place to sixth place.
  • Canada’s score increased by 2 points.
  • Novavax gained an additional point.
  • The United States’ score increased by 1 point.
  • Australia’s score gained a point.
  • Four new deals have been scored since the last update: Pfizer and Mexico, AstraZeneca and South Africa, Novavax and Australia, and Moderna and Korea.

Here’s a look at the latest scores

What happens next

With the current and ever-changing findings, the update for February is going to look different. To better reflect the current context in the race to develop and deploy a COVID-19 vaccine, ONE’s policy team is working to update elements of the Test’s methodology.

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