Major vaccine developers, globally, are successfully running phase III trials. In quite a few countries, vaccination drives have started. It is being expected that sufficient doses will be manufactured for more than one-third of the global population within the end of 2021. However, according to the Duke Global Health Innovation Center (North Carolina), many people in low-income countries might have to wait till 2023-2024 for their vaccine requirements.
Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer, and Moderna are among the major manufacturers of Covid vaccines and are expecting a total production capacity of 5.3 billion doses for 2021. Russia’s Sputnik V is expected to cover another 500 million people yearly - outside Russia from this year. The European Union countries along with five other countries have pre-ordered around half of it. But these countries account for about 13% of the global population and many other developing countries are in line.
Developed countries seem to be in a race for vaccination. The UK was marked as the first country to approve of the emergency use of vaccines on December 3, followed by Canada on December 9. The UK has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 40 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. On the other hand, Brazil is buying around 10 million doses of Sputnik V.
The US has started its vaccination drive from December 14, 2020 and has approximately given 17.2 million shots, according to data released by Bloomberg and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, about 912,497 doses per day were recorded in the country and around 5.2 doses have been administered for every 100 people. According to published data by Our World in Data, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates are standing at the highest position globally on account of per person vaccination daily and successfully increasing their numbers.
A large number of countries are still depending on assistance from COVAX, which is a joint fund, for equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines. It is led by Gavi based in Geneva that provides vaccination funds for low-income countries. Gavi in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is running the Covid vaccination project and securing around 700 million vaccine doses. They are targeting to provide two billion doses by the end of 2021. Internationally, more than 189 countries have signed up for COVAX to subsidise the vaccines to the needy countries.
The UNICEF’s role
The UNICEF in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is trying to reach 92 low and lower-middle income countries globally - of which one-quarter are in west and central Africa.
Since 2018, the UNICEF is working hand-in-hand with Gavi. Recently they have started to buy and install solar-powered fridges for storing the vaccines. Some of the major vaccines are required to be stored at a temperature of around -70C. The UNICEF stated, “The idea would be a game-changer for regional and district health workers who often struggle to carry out routine immunisations for children in places with unreliable electricity and cold storage facilities. We mapped where the necessary equipment was missing and then set about installing almost 20,000 solar-powered fridges.”
The UNICEF is taking the responsibility to send the vaccines to poor countries. Recently, Jean-Cedric Meeus, the UNICEF’s Chief of Supply for West and central Africa stated, “West and central Africa is one of the most complex environments. We are dealing with the challenge of delivering Covid-19 vaccines to major cities, but also to extremely remote villages.”
India’s vaccines supply
Israel, the United Kingdom, some member countries of the European Union, the United States and Switzerland are some of the countries which are playing an important role in the global vaccination process. But India is not lagging behind. India domestically has approved its indigenous vaccine, Covaxin and Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covishield. The country will also export the vaccines to its neighbouring countries soon.
Bangladesh has pitched for Covishield that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. India has declared that Bangladesh will be a priority recipient. Covaxin, on the other hand, will be delivered to Myanmar, Gulf countries, Seychelles and north African nations. Nepal and Bhutan will also receive vaccines manufactured in India. Additionally, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar had earlier commented, “We are now looking at post-Covid cooperation and I carry back with me Sri Lanka’s interest in accessing vaccines from India.”