The G7 began their much-anticipated summit last week with a target to reach 1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccine in pledged donations for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The result could be described as underwhelming (as well as unclear).
While the vast majority of Covid-19 purchases have been through the public sector, we have also seen some private sector deals. This appears to be increasing recently, as governments are partnering with private sector health providers to widen the reach of their vaccine rollouts.
There were two significant developments this week that are great news for Covid-19 vaccine equity. To be clear, the picture is still bleak: rich countries hold more than half of the vaccine purchased and don’t want to share until they’ve had their fill.
The G7 countries met (virtually) on Friday, February 19, to share variants of “no one is safe until everyone is safe” and discuss the importance of global equity of Covid-19 vaccines and the need for international cooperation. (Sound familiar? That’s because we heard the same things from the G20 in November.)
Global manufacturing capacity has been the primary rate limiter for Covid-19 vaccinations. Our vaccine manufacturing infrastructure was not designed to produce enough doses to cover 70% of the world’s population within a year (in addition to regular and routine vaccines) and, as expected, demand is outstripping supply. There has been good news on the manufacturing front, however, with several large pharma companies recently joining with rivals to ramp up production.
The COVAX partnership released last week its first estimates of dose allocations for participating countries, covering planned deliveries from February through June. These are labeled as “indicative,” meaning the estimates are non-binding and subject to a list of caveats provided in both the distribution forecast and the supply update released in January. In fact, the language surrounding both documents seems on balance to contain more hedging than forecasting.
AstraZeneca recently alerted the EU that it would only be able to deliver 25% of the 80-100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine expected this quarter, due to production problems in the European plants. Under new export controls, EU member states can now block exports of Covid-19 vaccines if they believe that the vaccine producers are in danger of not meeting their supply contracts with the EU.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, newly named the US Chief Medical Advisor, warmly addressed the WHO executive board within the first 24 hours of the Biden administration. Dr. Fauci confirmed that under President Joe Biden, the US will rejoin the WHO and will also join COVAX, the global mechanism designed to ensure equitable allocation of vaccines across the world.
This past week, we saw the first direct vaccine purchases made for low-income countries with the
African Union’s purchase of 270 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, OxfordAstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Though it is a relatively modest purchase, it represents a significant shift in the global power dynamics of the Covid-19 response.
The Serum Institute of India (SII), one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, has publicly
committed that half of the Covid-19 vaccines they produce will stay in India to serve the domestic
market, while the remainder will be shipped out to other countries. This week, we have changed the way that India’s reserved doses of vaccine are represented in our data.