West to hoard 1.2bn doses of spare vaccines by year’s end, analysis says, as pressure mounts to share with poor & outdo China
The supply of Covid-19 vaccines that rich Western countries have secured for themselves is so big that it can cover their possible needs by a large margin. So it’s time to share some with the poor and curb China’s diplomacy.
This appears to be the message coming on Sunday from leading Western media outlets, which report on an analysis of Covid-19 vaccine production capacities and supply contracts released by the London-based analytics firm Airfinity.
Rich nations have some 500 million doses that they can safely redistribute today. The number will increase to 1.2 billion by the end of the year and to 2.2 billion by the middle of 2022, the company estimated. That is a conservative evaluation based on the assumption that the US, the UK and the EU vaccinate 80% of their own populations, including children over 12, and launch booster shot programs.
The notion that rich countries have to choose between protecting their own people from Covid-19 and helping out nations that don’t have the money and political clout to secure vaccine supplies is now “a false dichotomy,” Airfinity chief Rasmus Bech Hansen told Bloomberg. “You can do both.”
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The looming “glut of vaccines,” as The Economist described it, is a product of rapidly increasing production capacities. This year, the global production is expected to reach 12 billion doses, with the same amount produced next year by June. Rich nations can feel safe about their needs being met, Airfinity said.
So the moment has come for the West to show moral leadership and vaccinate the world, former British prime minister Gordon Brown wrote in The Mirror.
“It’s time to act to end what has become a moral outrage and we must act now,” he said, directing his call on the leaders of the US, the UK, Germany and France. “Only Biden, Johnson, Merkel and Macron can bridge the growing divide between the world’s vaccine rich and vaccine poor.”
These leaders are holding all the cards. They have the monopoly on vaccine orders.
US President Joe Biden, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will discuss vaccine redistribution with leaders of other G7 nations at a meeting of the group, which may happen as soon as September 20, according to The Economist. Washington is expected to try and lead a Western effort “in sorting out the global vaccine supply.”
America’s “early vaccine nationalism allowed China to project itself as a benevolent global leader by sending an abundance of vaccines overseas,” the British magazine remarked. “A geopolitical win for America would be especially useful after the debacle in Afghanistan.”
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Airfinity estimates that the global supply of redistributed vaccines will be dominated by Western-made shots, with Pfizer/BioNTech’s comprising about 45% of the stockpile and Moderna’s taking up some 25%.
The Economist assessed that it was “fairly clear” that Western “mRNA vaccines are widely seen as the most effective and desirable around the world, whereas Chinese vaccines are seen as an inferior product that works less well.”
By supporting American mRNA manufacturing, the government can also help these vaccines win in the competitive market to come.
The glaring inequality in vaccine distribution is partially to blame for the poor performance of COVAX, a UN-backed donations-driven vaccine-sharing initiative. It has managed to buy and ship only 230 million doses this year, compared to its target of 1.3 billion delivered by the end of 2021.
Billionaire Bill Gates, who is a leading driving force behind COVAX, is a vocal opponent of opening up vaccine patents, a move that its advocates argue would have greatly benefited the poorer nations by making the jabs cheaper and more readily available. Gates’ position is shared by Merkel and Macron. Biden’s June promise to consider patent waivers has so far produced no concrete results.
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Vaccine manufacturers and people like Gates, who support Intellectual Property (IP) protections for inoculations, claim factors such as the shortage of proper production capacities in the developing world and logistical bottlenecks are holding back the global vaccination effort. Lifting patent protections won’t fix that and may make the rollout slower, not faster, they argued.
Meanwhile, as of April, nine individuals linked to Big Pharma became billionaires on the back of the vaccine rollouts while eight others, who were already above the cap, saw their wealth grow significantly.
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