As wealthy countries seek to inoculate their entire populations before health care workers and high-risk groups in low-income nations can access vaccine doses, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a large gap in health equity.
The world’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout began with remarkable speed, less than a year after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic. In accordance, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued an Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for several vaccines to prevent a greater loss of life caused by the pandemic.
UNICEF’s COVID-19 Vaccine Market Dashboard has tracked hundreds of agreements between countries and vaccine developers since May 2020. Currently, more than 6.6 billion doses have been reserved.
While many low-income countries wait to receive doses of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine, many wealthy ones have purchased enough supply to vaccinate their populations several times over.
According to a report from the anti-poverty organization ONE, Australia, Canada, Japan, the UK, the US, and the European Union could share almost 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines with other nations and still have enough supply to vaccinate their own populations.
If wealthy nations do not fully fund COVAX and share COVID-19 vaccines with countries that cannot afford to buy them, there could be twice as many deaths from COVID-19. In addition, a study from the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) found that the global economy could lose $9.2 trillion if wealthy nations do not ensure developing economies have access to COVID-19 vaccines.
As part of the Recovery Plan for the Worldcampaign, Global Citizen has called on world leaders to support vaccine equity in multiple ways.
First, we ask that wealthier nations finance COVAX, the vaccine pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator that seeks to provide COVID-19 vaccines for 92 low- and middle-income countries.
We are also asking governments that have secured an excess amount of vaccines to donate doses to lower-income countries. This should be done by giving away doses in tandem with domestic vaccination efforts, ultimately reaching 100% of excess doses donated once the country has secured enough doses to meet domestic demand.
Donations of vaccine doses should be free and in line with COVAX sharing principles.
Fortunately, there are six countries that have started the trend of donating WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines that could inspire other world leaders to follow.
Norway will donate extra doses of covid-19 vaccines through the @WHO and @ACTaccelerator- backed COVAX facility to be distributed in lower-income countries. We must ensure vaccines bring hope to all, not just some. @DrTedros— Dag Inge Ulstein (@dagiulstein) January 18, 2021
In January, Norway’s Minister of International Development Dag Inge Ulstein tweeted that the country would donate extra doses of COVID-19 vaccines in parallel with its domestic vaccination campaign.
Norway has already given 677,000 doses of their COVID-19 vaccine stock to low-income countries, according to Development Today. The country said it aims to donate almost 2 million doses to other nations while it vaccinates its own population.
Portugal announced that it would distribute 5% of its vaccine doses to a group of former colonies in Africa and to the nation of East Timor, according to Publico. As part of the European Union’s Emergency Support Instrument, Portugal is entitled to 35 million vaccine doses this year.
Donating 5% of its stock means the country would give 1.75 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor. So far, they have committed to donate 1 million doses starting in July.
French President Macron called on G7 world leaders to commit to donating 4-5% of their vaccine doses to poor countries ahead of the G7 summit that took place in February.
France also recently announced that it will give 500,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to poorer countries by June, according to Politico, roughly 0.7% of what they have pre-purchased.
A leading global manufacturer of vaccines, India began donating millions of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this year in conjunction with its domestic vaccination campaign, according to Voice of America.
So far, the country has donated the WHO-approved vaccine to several countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Brazil, according to the New York Times.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the country would donate 8,000 locally-produced vaccines to Papua New Guinea in response to its recent surge in COVID-19 cases, according to Reuters. Australia also plans to ask the EU for approval to donate 1 million of its designated doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Papua New Guinea.
#Moldova started #vaccination today! Our medical workers are receiving the #COVID19vaccines from #AstraZeneca due to the generous donation made by 🇷🇴!— Maia Sandu (@sandumaiamd) March 2, 2021
My sincere gratitude to our Romanian friends @KlausIohannis@florincitu@BogdanAurescu
Mulțumesc, România! pic.twitter.com/OTRWd1P0Nb
In December, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said he would donate 200,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to Moldova in a gesture of solidarity with the Eastern European country, according to the Guardian. Moldova has struggled to access vaccines and has also welcomed donations from COVAX.
Romania delivered the first batch of 21,600 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Moldova in February and promised to deploy the rest over the next several months, according to Radio Free Europe.
As countries rush to approve more vaccines to speed up the global COVID-19 response, experts say that wealthier nations need to recognize that the pandemic must be fought everywhere in order to successfully bring it to an end anywhere.
Initiatives like COVAX need more support from global leaders to ensure vaccine equity. Only when countries commit to donating doses to speed up global vaccination efforts will the world finally see an end to the pandemic.