A new analysis by The New York Times found that although half a billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered worldwide, more than 75 percent of them have been used by the world’s richest countries. Experts say that it’s not the inability of poorer countries to buy the vaccines, but how and when deals for the doses were struck.
In the pandemic’s early days, when drug makers were just starting to develop vaccines, placing orders for any of them was a risk. Wealthier countries could afford to order multiple vaccines, but in doing so, they tied up doses that smaller countries might have purchased, according to experts.
This led to higher-income countries like the United States claiming doses that, if delivered, could vaccinate the country four times over. Canada has secured a number of doses that could inoculate the country six times over this year. But Kenya expects that by 2023 it will have just 30 percent of its population vaccinated, and that’s with Covax covering the first 20 percent.
Covax, a global effort to distribute vaccines equally that is run by the World Health Organization and others, has tried to shift the balance. As of March 30, Covax has shipped 32.9 million vaccine doses to 70 countries and regions. Most of those shipments were donations to lower-income countries. To put that number in context, it is just 6 percent of the 564 million doses that have been administered worldwide.
“Inequities are growing, unfortunately,” said Andrea Taylor, a researcher at Duke University who is studying the vaccine purchase agreements, “and we expect that to be the case for at least the next six months while wealthy countries continue to keep the majority of doses rolling off production lines.”
Here’s what else we learned this week:
Federal health officials said on Friday that Americans who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 can travel at low risk to themselves, but that they must continue to take precautions like wearing a mask.
As Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York was writing a book that would center on his image as a hero of the pandemic, an impending Health Department report threatened to disclose a far higher number of nursing home deaths related to the coronavirus than the Cuomo administration had previously made public.
A clinical trial of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine found that it is extremely effective in young adolescents, maybe even more so than in adults. The trial found no symptomatic infections among vaccinated children ages 12 to 15, the companies said, and there were no serious side effects. The data has not yet been reviewed by independent experts.