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October 21, 2021
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Just over half of all planned doses of coronavirus vaccines have been bought up by high-income countries such as the United States, Japan and Australia, which means as much as a quarter of the world’s population will be unable to get vaccinated until 2022, researchers reported Tuesday.

These rich countries have pre-ordered close to 7.5 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines, enough to vaccinate 3.76 billion people, Anthony So of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and colleagues found.

“Just over half (51%) of these doses will go to high income countries, which represent 14% of the world’s population,” they wrote in their report, published in the BMJ.

At the time the report was written, the US accounted for one-fifth of all global Covid-19 cases but had reserved 800 million doses of vaccine. Japan and Australia accounted for fewer than 1% of cases but had options on 1 billion doses.

The researchers projected that the 13 major vaccine manufacturers working on coronavirus vaccines had the potential capacity for close to 6 billion courses of vaccine by the end of 2021. 

“High income countries have reserved just over half of these vaccine doses from 13 leading vaccine manufacturers. Low and middle income countries have the remainder, despite these countries comprising more than 85% of the world’s population,” they wrote.

“Even if all 13 of these vaccine manufacturers were to succeed in reaching their maximum production capacity, at least a fifth of the world’s population would not have access to vaccines until 2022.”

There’s one effort that is trying to get around this — COVAX, coordinated by the World Health Organization, global vaccines initiative Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The group is trying to build manufacturing capacity for 2 billion doses of coronavirus vaccine. 

“The COVAX Facility could play a key role in ensuring access to Covid-19 vaccines. However, its target of two billion doses by the end of 2021 is still short on premarket vaccine commitments and financing to deliver on this goal,” So’s team noted.