In just over a year, ten billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, in what has become the largest vaccination program in history.
Many countries began rolling out vaccines in late 2020 and early 2021, and since then more than 60% of the world’s population – 4.8 billion people – have received at least one dose of one of more than 20 vaccines different COVID-19s that have been approved. by nations for worldwide use.
“The world has never seen such rapid scaling of a new, life-saving technology,” says Amanda Glassman, executive vice president of the Center for Global Development in Washington DC. “The ongoing effort is inspiring.”
But – as researchers warned last year when the first billion doses were administered – there are still huge inequalities in access, with only 5.5% of people in low-income countries having received two doses.
By contrast, many high- and middle-income countries around the world are pushing ahead with programs to deliver a third or even fourth dose (see “The Path to Ten Billion”), with these boosters currently accounting for about a third of all doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered every day worldwide.
Some scientists warn that this continued inequity increases the risk of new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerging from poorly vaccinated populations.
“As an African, the real meaning of reaching ten billion vaccines administered is the extreme inequality that exists in the distribution of vaccines between north and south,” says Mosoka Fallah, founder of Refuge Place International, an organization of public health headquartered in Bassa. City, Liberia. “Until we correct this inequity, the world will continue to see new variants.”
Currently, only 16% of people across the African continent have received even one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Rich countries have donated excess vaccine doses to low-income countries, but Fallah says whether patents should be revoked on existing vaccines – an issue currently being debated at the World Health Organization. trade in Geneva, Switzerland – this would allow more countries to manufacture their own vaccines, increasing supply.
Despite these issues and distribution challenges, reaching the ten billion dose mark “is an unprecedented global moment,” says Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the Geneva-based World Health Organization. “It is a huge scientific achievement that ten billion doses of vaccines against a new pathogen have been developed in two years from its identification.”