Inequities in worldwide vaccine distribution are extending the pandemic and putting more lives at risk.
As more covid-19 vaccines become available, we’re encouraged by the past year of global collaboration. Government, business and public health officials worldwide have combined efforts to test vaccines and ensure there are effective vaccines which are made broadly available, including in the most remote areas of the globe. But we aren’t out of the woods yet. With new variants emerging, cases surging in global hotspots and infection numbers increasing to approximately 69,577 a day in the U.S., it’s imperative that we get people in every corner of the world vaccinated as quickly as possible, which requires high vaccination rates.
Massive work is underway to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines worldwide through COVAX, the multilateral collaborative effort spearheaded by leading health bodies, including Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). COVAX is helping to reverse the course of the global pandemic by ensuring that a two-tier system does not develop between those who have access to vaccines, and those who do not. In just over six weeks since the first doses were shipped, the COVAX Facility has enabled the delivery of almost 40 million doses to more than 100 countries.
AstraZeneca was the first global pharmaceutical company to join COVAX in June 2020 in line with the company’s commitment to support global, equitable access to vaccines. The AstraZeneca vaccine accounts for the vast majority of those distributed—over 38 million doses have been supplied, with 80 percent reaching low- and middle-income countries. The first COVAX shipments were dispatched to Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire and have since been delivered across six continents. For many of these countries, the AstraZeneca vaccine represented the first covid-19 vaccines they received. Many more shipments are planned over the coming weeks and months to enable over 140 countries to gain access in the first half of this year, with the company’s licensing partner the Serum Institute of India playing a key role.
We are witnessing the fastest vaccine rollout in history—however, there are still great needs for vaccines in many countries around the world as variants continue to spread and vulnerable groups remain without access. To achieve global herd immunity, it’s been estimated that up to 90 percent of every country’s population must be reached. There are about 7.9 billion people living on our planet. That’s an enormous undertaking and a colossal number of shots.
The pandemic cannot end until the majority of people are vaccinated. By enabling equitable, timely access to vaccines, the global collaboration undertaken by COVAX partners gives us hope of achieving this shared goal.