The World Health Organization (WHO) is reporting that globally, the number of vaccinations has now overtaken the number of reported infections.
In one sense, that’s good news and a remarkable achievement in such a short timeframe.
But more than three-quarters of those vaccinations are in just 10 countries that account for almost 60% of global GDP.
Almost 130 countries, with 2.5 billion people, are yet to administer a single dose.
Some countries have already vaccinated large proportions of their population who are at lower risk of severe disease or death.
All governments have an obligation to protect their own people.
But once countries with vaccines have vaccinated their own health workers and older people, the best way to protect the rest of their own population is to share vaccines so other countries can do the same.
That’s because the longer it takes to vaccinate those most at risk everywhere, the more opportunity we give the virus to mutate and evade vaccines.
In other words, unless we suppress the virus everywhere, we could end up back at square one.
On Wednesday, COVAX published its forecast for the distribution of vaccines to participating countries.
This is a very exciting moment. Countries are ready to go, but the vaccines aren’t there.
We need countries to share doses once they have finished vaccinating health workers and older people.
But we also need a massive scale-up in production. Last week, Sanofi announced it would make its manufacturing infrastructure available to support the production of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. We call on other companies to follow this example.
Companies can also issue non-exclusive licenses to allow other producers to manufacture their vaccine – a mechanism that has been used before to expand access to treatments for HIV and hepatitis C.
The COVID-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP, enables the voluntary licensing of technologies in a non-exclusive and transparent way by providing a platform for developers to share knowledge, intellectual property, and data.
This sharing of knowledge and data could enable immediate use of untapped production capacity and help build additional manufacturing bases, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Expanding production globally would also make poor countries less dependent on donations from rich ones.
These are unprecedented times and we applaud those manufacturers that have pledged, for example, to sell their vaccines at cost.
But manufacturers can do more: having received substantial public funding, we encourage all manufacturers to share their data and technology to ensure global equitable access to vaccines.
And we call on companies to share their dossiers with WHO faster and more fully than they have been doing, so we can review them for emergency use listing.
Written by Joe Cusmano