A growing number of countries around the world are launching Covid-19 vaccine programmes, generating optimism that there is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.
However, while some developing economies are successfully moving forwards with their own programmes, others have expressed concern about an emerging global imbalance in distribution.
Governments around the world spent €93bn on Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics in 2020, around €86.5bn of which went to vaccine producers, according to the kENUP Foundation, a non-profit organisation.
Of this total, 32% came from the US, 24% from the EU, and a total of 13% from Japan and South Korea. Thanks in part to such investment, the UK, the US, China, India and Russia have all developed clinically approved Covid-19 vaccines. As a result of national and multinational initiatives, approximately 39m doses had been administered in 49 countries as of January 19.
While many rich nations have been able to produce or purchase sufficient doses to inoculate their populations several times over, some less developed countries are struggling to guarantee supplies. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has warned that an uneven distribution of vaccines risks prolonging the pandemic.
Further to questions of supply, it is feared that some middle- and lower-income countries will have to overcome logistics-related hurdles to provide vaccines to all citizens. Vaccines are biological products that can be damaged by different environmental conditions, such as very high or low temperatures, or excessive light.
It is thus essential that they are transported and stored appropriately. For example, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine must be kept refrigerated at -70°C, meaning that its distribution requires considerable cold-chain logistics capacity, which is both expensive and dependent on an efficient road network. Another challenge is related to logistics and ICT. Successfully inoculating the entire population of a given country requires a comprehensive, up-to-date and reliable database – something not all nations possess.
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