The unfairness of global supply desperately needs to be addressed, but turning down a jab only means it gets wasted
- Andrew Pollard is director of the Oxford Vaccine Group
Looking back to spring last year, many people were predicting that we wouldn’t have any vaccines available by now, and even the most optimistic didn’t predict that 6.5bn doses of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines would have been administered globally. Indeed, it is truly amazing that, within the next month, 50% of the world’s population will have received at least one dose of a vaccine to protect them against Covid-19, with 20-30 million more doses being given globally every day. To make and deliver so many doses in 2021 reflects astonishing global endeavours by manufacturing facility staff, those involved in the logistics of getting the vaccines to clinics, and an army of healthcare workers and vaccinators.
But this remarkable progress is tempered by an uncomfortable moral and ethical predicament: simply put, the doses still aren’t shared fairly. That global 50% vaccinated figure hides gross inequity. More than 95% of people in low-income countries are yet to receive even their first dose, compared with over 60% in high income countries. We are protected, but they are not. To effect change in global mortality this year, it isn’t enough to promise to share doses – 1bn doses in total were pledged in June by the G7 – we have to actually give the doses to those at risk of dying, and stick the needles in before they meet the virus. Tragically, a million deaths have occurred since that G7 pledge according to Our World in Data.
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard was chief investigator of the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trials, and is director of the Oxford Vaccine Group