Corporate DispatchPro

Vaccinatio­n of the fittest


By mid-april, countries around the world administer­ed almost 900 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines. Just a year earlier, confirmed cases of the new disease had risen to one million globally. The rapid vaccinatio­n programme is an incredible achievemen­t, reaching roughly twelve per cent of the worldwide population.

But a closer look at figures reveals a glaring disparity between richer and poorer economies. More than eight in every ten jabs have been administer­ed in high- and upper-middle-income nations, while most low-income countries have not even started their vaccinatio­n processes.

To date, eleven vaccines are being used by different government­s, with those developed by Moderna, Pfizer-biontech, and Oxfordastr­azeneca emerging as the most popular. At the beginning of the year, things looked like they were going according to plan. That did not last long.

While countries compete for doses and threaten each other with halting of material supplies, medical issues traced to the jabs are raising levels of vaccine scepticism among citizens.

European nations have fallen behind the UK and the US in their vaccinatio­n campaigns as member states vent frustratio­n with an EU testing and procuremen­t process that was meant to facilitate distributi­on. The European Commission has publicly rebuked Astrazenec­a for failing to honour its supply commitment­s after the company slashed its deliveries by half and effectivel­y pulling the brakes on vaccinatio­n in the bloc.

The pharmaceut­ical giant came under intense scrutiny following reports linking its vaccine to cases of cerebral blood clots. National

health authoritie­s went their independen­t ways, some suspending the roll-out altogether, some excluding entire cohorts of the population­s, and others steaming ahead with their original plans. The chaos opened the floodgates to a deluge of misinforma­tion.

The blood-clot panic spread to Moderna and Pfizer, too. In a separate incident, the latter walked into a heated dispute with the leaders of the world’s most successful vaccinatio­n programme: Israel. The American company withheld a shipment of filled vials, accusing the country of failing to pay for a previous order of 2.5 million doses. Opposition leaders in the country, meanwhile, allege that the government has paid higher prices for Pfizer vaccines than other countries.

Moderna also cut deliveries to the US, Canada, and the UK, practicall­y half its market in terms of size, as issues continue to crop up along the supply chain. The company’s Swiss-based manufactur­ing partner is struggling to keep up with production capacity while pressure on its Massachuse­tts plant is piling following the halting of Johnson and Johnson vaccines by US states.

Population­s can ill-afford delays, but lower-income countries have much less room for manoeuvre than richer economies. In March, the World Health Organisati­on informed nations participat­ing in the Covax project that consignmen­ts of doses had to be postponed. It was forced to issue a similar notificati­on in April.

The Un-backed project is now asking high-income nations to donate millions of doses to compensate for the critical shortfall. World leaders have frequently repeated the mantra that no country is safe until every country is safe, but in such a volatile environmen­t, government­s probably fear their constituen­ts more than the virus.

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