With 654 crore people vaccinated with at least one dose globally and China and India leading the charge as the countries with the most vaccinated, there are many countries that are still struggling to get vaccines. If COVID-19 becomes endemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that global economic losses could exceed US$ 5.3 trillion by 2026.
In order to have 70 percent of the world's population vaccinated by mid-2022, urgent actions are needed to be undertaken by the global community. The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched 'the Strategy to Achieve Global Covid-19 Vaccination by mid-2022' to realise this goal.
We would need 11 billion vaccine doses to reach the 70 percent target. Currently, vaccine companies are producing around 1.5 billion doses per month. This is sufficient to achieve the global targets only if there is equitable distribution of vaccines and rich countries do not hoard excess doses.
WHO had also set up interim targets with the first one being to ensure that 10 percent of the population in all countries are vaccinated by the end-September 2021. However, that didn't work out with 56 countries, representing 20 percent of the global population, not able to reach the mark. The vast majority of these are countries in Africa and the Middle East.
"Science has played its part by delivering powerful, life-saving tools faster than for any outbreak in history," said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "But the concentration of those tools in the hands of a few countries and companies has led to a global catastrophe, with the rich protected while the poor remain exposed to a deadly virus. We can still achieve the targets for this year and next, but it will take a level of political commitment, action and cooperation, beyond what we have seen to date."
They also want to completely vaccinate 40 percent of the population in all countries by end-2021. If they manage to do so is yet to be seen.
The apex health agency is following the strategy where it first vaccinates health workers, older populations, and high-risk individuals with important co-morbidities, followed by adults and adolescents. This, they believe, will allow them to reach their global targets in an organised manner.
"This is a costed, coordinated and credible path out of the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere," said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "Without a coordinated, equitable approach, a reduction of cases in any one country will not be sustained over time. For everyone's sake, we must urgently bring all countries to a high level of vaccination coverage."
There have been substantial decreases in serious disease, hospitalisation, and death in places with high vaccine coverage, but vaccine access is highly inequitable. As a result, new variants continue to emerge causing disease outbreaks and slowing or halting the reopening of society and economy.
The Strategy outlines the priority actions needed from the different actors to achieve the targets.
All Countries must:
Establish updated national COVID-19 vaccine targets and plans defining dose requirements to guide manufacturing investment and vaccine redistribution, and financial and programmatic resource needs to guide internal planning and external support; Monitor vaccine demand and uptake carefully to rapidly adapt services and ensure continuity of vaccine supplies; Commit to equitable distribution of vaccines in line with the WHO three-step approach; Revise national vaccination strategies, policies and prioritization as needed to harness emerging evidence to maximize the impact of existing, modified and new vaccines.
For countries with high vaccine coverage:
Swap vaccine delivery schedules, with COVAX and AVAT to enhance coverage in countries in need;
Fulfil and accelerate vaccine dose-sharing and donation commitments to COVAX in the near term, for those with existing pledges;
Establish new dose-sharing commitments to facilitate progress toward the 70% coverage target in every country.
For vaccine-producing countries:
Allow the free cross-border flow of finished vaccines and raw materials;
Enable diversified vaccine production, both geographically and technologically, including through non-exclusive, and transparent licensing and sharing of know-how to allow transfer of technology and scale-up of manufacturing.
For COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers:
Prioritize and fulfil COVAX and AVAT contracts as a matter of urgency;
Provide full transparency on the overall monthly production of COVID-19 vaccines and clear monthly schedules for supplies to COVAX, AVAT and low and low-middle income countries, to enable proper global and national-level planning and optimal use of scarce supplies;
Actively engage and work with countries that have high coverage and that have contracted high volumes of vaccines to allow the prioritization of COVAX and AVAT contracts, including through delivery schedule swaps, and facilitate rapid and early dose-sharing;
Commit to share know-how more rapidly, facilitate technology transfer and provide transparent non-exclusive voluntary licenses, to ensure that future vaccine supply is reliable, affordable, available, and deployed to every country in volumes and timing that achieves equitable access.
For civil society, community organizations, and the private sector:
Advocate locally, nationally and internationally for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments, calling for and monitoring in particular the specific actions required of manufacturers, governments and multilateral actors;
Mobilize and empower communities, including through social media and community networks, to generate strong vaccine demand and address misinformation and misperceptions that contribute to vaccine hesitancy;
Provide support to the in-country delivery of vaccination programmes and services.
For global and regional multilateral development banks and institutions:
Enable countries to more rapidly access the capital and external support needed for in-country vaccine delivery, prioritizing low-income settings and especially targeting support to the technical, logistics and human resources required;
Engage fully with COVAX/ACT-Accelerator and AVAT, with integrated operations and real-time sharing of information to truly support equitable access;
Support international procurement and allocation mechanisms to enable all countries to equitably, efficiently and rapidly achieve the COVID-19 vaccine targets;
Support vaccine distribution plans and a campaign to convey the life-saving importance of approved COVID-19 vaccinations.
For WHO, Gavi, UNICEF & CEPI:
Work in close collaboration with World Bank, World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, Africa CDC, AVAT, and other key partners to monitor progress, identify changes needed to resolve bottlenecks, coordinate information and prioritize actions.
Continue to lead and manage the COVAX Pillar of ACT-Accelerator, providing end-to-end integrated support for the global vaccination targets.
Support the equitable allocation of available vaccines, particularly to low-, low-middle income and lagging countries, taking into account all sources of vaccines.
Directly support countries to develop and sustain rapid, effective, high-quality COVID-19 vaccine delivery programmes that can achieve the global targets, while strengthening the essential immunization programme and other health services.
Address key research, policy, safety and regulatory issues that will optimize vaccine impact including effective supply, dosing and vaccine schedules, mixing and matching of products, protection against variants, and other issues.
Monitor and report monthly on progress towards the global COVID-19 vaccination goals.