More than 944 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across 170 countries – enough to vaccinate 6.2% of the global population as of April 22. It is an impressive number at unprecedented speed and scope, but gaps in the vaccine delivery system and unequal access to vaccines threaten the world’s ability to end this pandemic. In some countries such as the U.S. roughly 30% of the population has been vaccinated, while in many countries fewer than 1% of people have.
The theme for this year’s World Immunization Week, starting on April 24, is “Vaccines Bring Us Closer,” emphasizing their role as the most effective health interventions ever invented. Countries have been immunizing for decades against diseases like measles, polio, and influenza, and vaccines were responsible for eradicating smallpox, the only human disease to have that distinction. But as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines demonstrates, getting vaccines from the production site into people’s arms takes a robust and complex supply chain.
The Task Force’s Partnership for Influenza Vaccine Introduction (PIVI) works to strengthen these systems in low- and middle-income countries by establishing vaccine procurement procedures, cold-chain infrastructure, and plans for prioritized demographic distribution for seasonal influenza. Watch the above video to learn more.
However, the infrastructure for delivering vaccines is not the only challenge. Stark health inequity is also causing major barriers to protecting people from COVID-19. Vaccine trackers tell a story of low-and middle-income countries struggling to receive shipments of vaccines while wealthier countries distribute record-breaking numbers. As of April 11, over 187 million doses had been administered in the U.S. compared to the estimated 13 million across the entire African continent. Bloomberg’s Global Vaccine Tracker map visually demonstrates this disparity between the Global North and the Global South.
To combat these challenges, The Task Force’s COVID Vaccine Introduction Program (COVIP), has engaged with low- and middle-income countries, including Kenya, Mongolia, Albania, and Cote D’Ivoire to ensure they are ready and able to deploy and evaluate COVID-19 vaccines when they become available. The goal is to provide this support to up to 30 countries that are lacking access to vaccines to ensure that all people are protected.
Additionally, The Task Force recently signed a letter to President Biden, along with 30 other nongovernmental organizations, urging the U.S. “to share its excess COVID-19 vaccine doses with those countries in greatest need, in coordination with COVAX.” The letter outlines not only the injustice of the human cost of hoarding vaccines but also that it could result in an economic cost of $9.2 trillion for the global economy by prolonging the pandemic.