Most poor countries will not achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation until at least 2024 and some may never get there, according to a new forecast, which maps a starkly divided world over the next few years in which a handful of developed countries are fully vaccinated while others race to catch up.
84 countries that make up the world’s poorest will not receive enough doses to sufficiently immunise their populations for at least a further year, a global faultline that will run through the first half of this decade, said Agathe Demarais, of the the Economist Intelligence Unit global forecasting director and author of the report.
The key reason is the myriad hurdles in delivering doses: securing vaccine ingredients, production constraints, delays in delivery, poor medical infrastructure in some countries and lack of trained health workers to administer injections, among others.
The report was sceptical of forecasts by Covax, a global vaccine-sharing alliance, that it would supply enough doses this year to cover 27% of populations in member countries including more than 92 lower-income ones. The scheme aims to being administering vaccines next month and will announce each country’s first allocations this week. “There’s a lot of political hope that the targets will be hit … but we can see there are already delays for production and delivery in richer countries, so we can expect some delay in poor countries,” Demarais said.
A report from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) said. “Sharing vaccines equitably is not charity, it is economic common sense,” said the ICC’s secretary-general John Denton.
The WHO director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world was on the edge of a “catastrophic moral failure” in the unequal distribution of vaccines so far, with more than 40m doses given in about 50 countries, most of them wealthy or upper-middle income.
Medical rights groups have called for patents on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments to be shared so that qualified manufacturers can also begin producing them and ease global shortages. Demarais said that, even if pharmaceutical companies shared their technology, patents and knowhow, there would still be challenges in finding workers trained to produce vaccines.
“There are a number of factories now that are running out of labour supply, experienced workers who can manufacture the vaccines to sufficient quality,” she said.