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How close is the world to herd immunity to COVID-19?


Having safe and effective vaccines to fight COVID-19 within a year of the first reported cases is a historic scientific achievement. But as our animated series “Pandemica” has illustrated, unless the world prioritizes fair and equal vaccine distribution, we’re at risk of prolonging the pandemic. What happens in the next six weeks will determine the trajectory of this pandemic for the next six months. This is a critical point in the pandemic, as world leaders can either turn the tide and prioritize global vaccine access, or not do so and enable the world to fall into a pandemic purgatory.

The pandemic will only end when everyone has access to vaccines, otherwise the virus will continue to go unchecked, mutate, and wreak havoc on livelihoods and the global economy. So how well are countries and companies prioritizing global vaccine access?

That’s where our Vaccine Access Test 2.0 comes in. The test assesses how well G20 countries and pharmaceutical companies are improving access to vaccines and captures the urgent actions needed now to do so.

Here are the latest findings as of May 2021.

The current trends

Progress on vaccine access is currently stagnant. The world is 15 months into this global crisis and as global daily death tolls grow, right now, wealthier countries are continuing to increase their vaccinations, while less than 1% of vaccine doses administered globally have gone to low-income countries.

One of the biggest challenges to scaling up vaccinations globally is supply — there are not enough vaccines to meet the global demand. But that dynamic is changing, as supply is set to exceed demand for vaccines in six of the G7 countries by the end of the summer. In fact, these countries will have so much supply, that they will be able to vaccinate their entire populations and still have over 1 billion vaccine doses left over.

In order to reach global herd immunity and finally see an end to the pandemic, G7 countries must ensure global vaccine access in 2021. The world cannot afford to go any longer without any progress on vaccine access as the pandemic continues.

How scores have changed this month

Here’s a look at how scores have changed this month:

  • Mexico lost 1 point.
  • The US gained 1 point.
  • Netherlands increased its pledge to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).
  • Moderna gained 2 points.
  • Sanofi and GSK each gained 1 point.

Here’s a look at the current scores

What happens next

Ensuring global vaccine access is the only way to end this global crisis, because if the vaccine isn’t everywhere, this pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Vaccine access matters because:

  • Right now, there are already over 4,000 variants of COVID-19, with some being more transmissible than others. As the virus continues unchecked, the more it’ll mutate and cross borders. The only way to prevent new and possibly more dangerous variants is to slow the spread through widespread vaccination.
  • Vaccine hoarding could cost the global economy up to $9.2 trillion, with rich countries bearing the costs.
  • If rich countries continue to monopolize the first 2 billion doses of vaccines and not prioritize global vaccine access, there could be twice as many COVID-19 deaths.

So as the race continues, these are the crucial steps to take to secure global vaccine access and end the pandemic for everyone, everywhere:

  • G7 countries should commit and plan to share surplus vaccine doses to maximize global coverage.
  • Governments should commit to fully funding the ACT-A and pharmaceutical companies should partner with COVAX.
  • There should be a raise in global ambition to reach global herd immunity by 2022.

Learn more about our latest Vaccine Access Test 2.0 findings and find out more about the need for global vaccine access in our new series Pandemica.

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