Nearly three-fourths of the Covid-19 vaccine doses administered so far have been in 10 countries that account for roughly 60% of the global GDP, as per the World Health Organization. Science’s Kai Kupferschmidt points out that while rich countries are recipients of the bulk of the vaccines, healt workers in many African nations are dying from Covid-19 as there are no vaccines to mitigate the risks of exposure for them; indeed, this is likely to be the case in many poor nations elsewhere in the world too. While the rollout in many developed and middle-income nations has prioritised their healthcare workers, none of the sub-Saharan African nations, Kupferschmidt writes, has started vaccination except for South Africa. Healthcare workers critical to these nations’ fragile health systems, including prominent African medicos, have died. For perspective, each individual doctor-death is a severe blow for Mozambique, where there are 8 doctors per 100,000 population (India has 60-70 while the US has 300).
While some developed countries have contracts for doses exceeding their populations, the WHO-led Covax initiative is looking to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines for poor nations. Canada, one of the funders of the initiative, is the only rich country that will be receiving vaccines from the initiative in the first phase of disbursal, though countries like Singapore and New Zealand have also requested early supply. If poor nations don’t get vaccines soon, it is likely that their poverty will get exacerbated. Equity in vaccine access is something that the global community must consider seriously.