In yet another recent study, the disparity in the availability of Covid-19 vaccines between low and high-income countries has been brought to light. The discrepancy is stark as the vaccines are now being hoarded by the high-income countries even as the low-income ones are desperately looking for supplies.
Globally, 8.6 billion doses of vaccines have been purchased so far and a huge chunk of it (4.6 billion doses or 53%) has been secured by the high-income countries, a geopolitical block that represents just 16% of the global population. Meanwhile, the share of the low-income countries is just 770 million doses, said a research study “Reducing Global COVID Vaccine Shortages: New Research and Recommendations for US Leadership”.
The core point of the study is to underline how the US is a good example to show how these high-income countries are stockpiling medicines at the cost of the lives in the developing world and poor countries.
According to the study, the US is expected to have extra 300 million doses of vaccines by July. It had already scaled up orders it placed in February when it raised the number of vaccine doses ordered earlier by 200 million doses. Now, 300 million doses each from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are going to be stockpiled there.
In March, the Biden Administration increased an order of 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine to 200 million doses. Vaccines by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are given in two doses while Johnson & Johnson’s is a single-dose vaccine.
Additionally, it already has a stockpile of 20 million doses of Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is yet to get approval in the US. Last year, the US had placed an order of 300 million doses of the vaccine. Then, there is another 100 million doses ordered for Novavax vaccine, which will be produced in India by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and is currently undergoing phase 3 trials.
So, theoretically, 1,200 doses of vaccine ordered for a targeted population of 257 million in the US when it can in fact, vaccinate 600 million people.
On the ground, the country is administering two vaccines right now as it has paused the use of J&J vaccine due to reports of a rare side-effect of a blood clot with no approval for the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Novavax is undergoing phase-3 trials.
However, even the 600 million doses of Pfize-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are more than enough for the adult population in US, especially when they have not reported any major side-effects.
A look at the calculations
According to the US Census Bureau, the current population of the US is 330 million. Out of this, around 73 million are under 18 years of age. So, the targeted adult population that is vaccinated is 257 million.
US President Joe Biden recently directed all the states to open it for all individuals above 18 years of age from April 19. In the country, almost all of the states have opened vaccination for the population above 16 years of age, but they require parental consent.
Now, as per the database website ‘Our World in Data’, the US has so far administered 209.41 million doses of vaccines, so far.
In terms of vaccines, according to the USA Today database, till April 18, 109,122,092 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, 92,181,455 doses of Moderna vaccine and 7,935,549 doses of J&J vaccine were administered.
That means over 108 million people or 42% of the population base has already been administered with COVID vaccines in the country with at least single doses of the vaccine.
Around 62 million people or 24% of the targeted population base have been fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins University coronavirus database.
As per this calculation, the US needs around 400 doses of vaccine, at the most, including vaccine wastage, to cover its entire targeted population. It means, the country has ordered around 200 million doses more of the two double-dose vaccines it is currently using.
It also becomes its responsibility to divert the vaccines, including the 20 million stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccine that it has not yet approved but the same is being used in more than 70 countries, including India.
India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, is also exporting it to other countries that need vaccines desperately, even if it is witnessing the second COVID surge with an exponential rise in daily cases that is now highest in the world.