A quarter of the world may be without a vaccine – at least until 2022

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  • A quarter of the world population won’t have access to a Covid-19 vaccine until 2022
  • High income countries leave low- and middle-income countries with little chances of access to vaccine before 2022
  • South Africa’s civil society demand government to be open about vaccine deals

One fourth of the world may not have access to the Covid-19 vaccine, at least until 2022, according to a new study by The BMJ.

Equitable access to the vaccine in the next year seems unattainable as the world’s richest countries have already pre-ordered the currently available vaccines.

The UK has secured emergency use authorisation for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was the first to prove its efficacy. The US is doing the same from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

The vaccine of haves and have nots

The study warns that with the uncertainty that vaccines may be effective in their countries, richer countries run the risk of buying more doses  than they need or may end up using, while low- and middle-income countries lag behind in the race to secure vaccine deals as high-income countries are ahead of them.

To remedy the injustice of access to the vaccine, the World Health Health Organisation (WHO) has models such as Fair Priority and the COVAX Facility. COVAX aims to supply at least two billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of 2021. Just over US$ 2 billion has been raised for this purpose.

However, the research points out that only up to 40% of the vaccine doses from these vaccine manufacturers might potentially remain for low- and middle-income countries.

Researchers say that even if all of these vaccine manufacturers were to succeed in reaching their maximum production capacity, at least a fifth of the world's population would not have access to vaccines until 2022.

South Africa’s vaccine progress

South Africa is part of the countries who hope to access the vaccine through the COVAX Facility. However, the government missed the payment deadline to secure the vaccine. On Tuesday Fin24 reported that the government finally made its down payment.

Civil society organisation, the Health Justice Initiative is demanding that the government be open about its vaccine deals in order to ensure equitable access. In a letter to various ministries, the organisation requests that government be open to the public.

“We do restate the increasing urgency for the development and publication of the Covid-19 vaccine access and allocation plan(s) referred to in our previous letters, particularly to ensure the proper management by the state of the country’s overall vaccination access, supply and allocation processes, both for the public and private sectors, as they may conflict with one another, as things stand,” the letter states.

READ | Covid-19: Reusing face masks with pleats can significantly lower protection levels, new study shows

READ | J&J completes enrollment of Covid vaccine trial, and first to apply for vaccine registration in SA

READ | OPINION | What’s the difference between viral shedding and reinfection with Covid-19?

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