Three reflections from a wild week

Monday, May 3, 2021
Weekly COVID Vaccine Research Update

High-income country confirmed dose total: 4.9 billion
Upper-middle-income country total: 1.5 billion
Lower-middle-income country total: 713 million
Low-income country total: 770 million
COVAX total: 1.12 billion
Total worldwide confirmed purchases of Covid-19 vaccines: 9 billion doses


Three reflections from a wild week

Author: Andrea Taylor

There is a lot of ground to cover this week. The pandemic continues to rage throughout the world, with countries in South Asia and Latin America battling the worst surges. India has set new world records for daily infections and deaths, while eschewing a nation-wide lockdown and struggling to implement a mass vaccination campaign with limited supply.

Meanwhile, high-income countries are planning for the vaccination of children and annual boosters for the entire population. The inequities in global access to Covid-19 vaccines are starker now than ever before and the consequences of the unequal rollout across the world are beginning to be felt in terms of preventable deaths, dangerous variants, and economic loss.

We published three opinion pieces recently, in which we reflect on these developments and the implications for global equity, and provide recommendations for leaders.

In Politico Magazine, we write about why and how the US should actively support Covid-19 vaccination in other countries. As of this week, 70% of vaccinations have taken place in the US, EU, China, and India, and we face a long wait before most of the world will have enough doses to approach herd immunity. Based on analysis of our data on vaccine purchases and manufacturing, we recommend that excess does be shared immediately, rather than being stored for later use, as the global need is urgent now and speed counts. We also make the case that the US can and should lead efforts to fund development of manufacturing hubs in Africa and Asia, to improve global access to safe and effective vaccines.

In The Hill, we explore how the communication and messaging from leaders in the US and EU about potential risks from Covid-19 vaccines can have unintended and dangerous impacts in other parts of the world. We note that the risk-benefit ratio is very different for countries where Janssen (J&J) and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine make up the bulk of supply than for countries like the US, which have enough vaccine doses from other makers to cover the entire population. Clear communication about the factors leading to regulatory pauses or restrictions can help leaders in other countries to put these risks into perspective and help to inform their own risk-benefit calculations.

In the MIT Technology Review, we write about the factors contributing to India’s current crisis and what is needed now. While India’s export restrictions on Covid-19 vaccines are important and understandable, the country will not be able to vaccinate its way out of this surge. India urgently needs to implement national public health measures to reduce spread of the virus and buy time to manufacture and administer vaccines. International support, in the form of oxygen, medication, testing kits, and masks are also desperately needed. (The MIT Technology Review requires a subscription, but non-subscribers can read up to three articles free.)


Significant updates, news, and trends we saw last week:

  • US will divert supplies ordered for its own vaccine manufacturing to India, to support production at the Serum Institute. This is a great start towards equity, but there is more that the US can do (see our comments above for our take on what can and should be done).
  • USEUUK, and Russia send help to India including oxygen, ventilatiors and medication to address the Covid-19 crisis, as India registered more than 300,000 new cases daily this week.  
  • South American countries are also seeing record-high death rates and last week accounted for 38% of Covid-19 deaths worldwide but only represent 8% of the world’s population, according to the New York Times.
  • Israel, which has vaccinated 62% of their population, purchased more Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna doses this week but is still not providing vaccines to Palestinians, including those living in the West Bank.
  • Bharat Biotech in India reports that it will double manufacturing capacity to 20 million doses per month by June and then will reach 60 to 70 million doses per month by August.
  • Brazilian health regulators unanimously voted to not approve the Sputnik V vaccine, citing a lack of data on safety, quality, and effectiveness. Regulators in the Czech Republic made a similar announcement this week, saying they had not received enough documentation properly assess the vaccine. Russia has denied both claims and plans to sue Brazil’s regulator.
  • Pfizer is shipping doses produced in the US to Mexico, the first such global export from the company’s US production. More shipments abroad are expected to follow, as US manufacturing plants expect to have excess capacity by mid-year.
  • Mexico announced its Birmex firm will provide fill-finish capacity for Sputnik V, using active ingredient produced in Russia. Mexican officials hope this will speed up production and delivery of their order, which has been repeatedly delayed.
  • Moderna is expanding manufacturing plans in the US and Europe to increase production capacity. The company now expects to produce 800 million to 1 billion doses in 2021 and to further increase capacity up to 3 billion doses in 2022.
  • The WHO has approved the Moderna vaccine for Emergency Use Listing (EUL), which makes it eligible for distribution through COVAX. Decisions on Sinopharm (Beijing) and Sinovac are expected within the next week.
  • France is the first country to donate vaccine doses through the COVAX dose-sharing scheme, pledging 500,000 doses by mid-June. France intends to donate at least 5% of their total supply to COVAX through 2021. New Zealand and Spain have also signaled that they will donate doses through COVAX.
  • The EU is taking legal action against AstraZeneca for “not respecting” terms of their contract.
  • A new report from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science forecasts that global spending on Covid-19 vaccines will exceed $150 billion by 2025, including $53 billion in 2021.


For more information on our research on Covid-19 vaccine supply, please see