As poor nations scramble to get access to vaccines to save their citizens, about 100 million COVID-19 vaccines stockpiled by rich nations or G7 are set to expire by the year-end!
This colossal waste is being termed as an “atrocity” by social justice campaigners as only 1.9% people in low-income countries have received at least one dose so far. In contrast, 63% of people in the US and 71% of those in the UK have received at least one jab.
Out of the 100 million vaccines set to expire by the end of the year, the European Union holds 41% and the United States 32%, says a report released on Sunday by Airfinity, an information and analytics company working with pharma companies, governments, investors and media.
Calling for redistribution, the estimate, released after tracking by Our World in Data, says that the G7 and European Union will have one billion more vaccines than they need by the end of 2021. Out of these, nearly 10%, or about 100 million, are expected to expire this year too!
If the time needed to administer vaccine programmes in Lower Income Countries (LICs) and Lower Middle Income Countries (LMICs) is factored in, this figure of wasted doses increases. The doses need to have at least a two-month shelf life for these countries to use them.
According to Airfinity’s calculations, G7 could waste 241 million doses by end of 2021 without immediate redistribution and these wasted doses would be those over and above the boosters being administered and fulfilment of pledged donations.
The country-wise breakdown of the 241 million vaccines that could potentially be wasted is: Canada 8%, EU 44%, Japan 3%, the UK 9% and the US 36%.
Further, according to the forecast in the report, the available vaccines in the G7 and EU -- combined with already purchased doses and COVAX deliveries -- are enough for LICs and LMICs to vaccinate 70% of their populations by May 2022.
This report comes at a crucial time when global inequalities in vaccine distribution are increasing. While many developed countries have comfortably inoculated fully more than 70% of their population, African countries have been able to fully vaccinate only a miniscule 4% of their total population. In some countries such as Nigeria and Ethiopia, among others, this percentage is, in fact, less than 1%.
Calling on the global community, the co-founder and CEO of Airfinity, Rasmus Bech Hansen, stated that “The world has witnessed two extraordinary scientific achievements in the pandemic: The fast development of highly effective vaccines and the unprecedented scale up of production. For the world to get the full benefit of this, our data shows, we need a third equally unprecedented achievement: A large scale, rapid, globally coordinated, science driven vaccination campaign.”
The report also comes at a strategic time, just ahead of a Global Vaccine Summit on September 22, which will be chaired by US President Joe Biden.
The report has also pointed out and corroborated the estimated under-counting of deaths globally. It says that the official death count massively underestimates actual deaths caused by COVID-19, particularly in lower income countries, where reporting systems are worse and actual deaths could be three times higher.
Revealing their estimates on deaths that can be averted by redistribution, the report says that if vaccine stock that is available now and that is forecast to be available, begins being donated now and continue to be donated, and rolls out, then it is estimated that nearly one million deaths could be averted by mid-2022.
Further, as the number of deaths are on a rise and are forecast to continue as more transmissible variants of COVID-19 have spread, the growth rate could slow if more vaccines are administered. The report argues that if effective vaccines are rolled out quickly then the death rate could drop significantly in coming months.