COVID-19 vaccine nationalism a threat to herd immunity: researchers

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NAIROBI, March 25 (Xinhua) — The hoarding of COVID-19 vaccine stockpiles by wealthy nations is hampering efforts to inoculate more than 60 percent of the global population and achieve herd immunity, researchers said on Thursday.

According to researchers affiliated with the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, vaccine access in low and middle-income countries is still inadequate amid growing nationalism and supply chain hiccups.

“COVID-19 vaccine access remains a lopsided issue as wealthy countries have now purchased about 4.6 billion doses – with 1.2 billion of those controlled by the United States alone for its 330 million citizens, compared to one billion for the COVAX pact supplying several billion people in low and middle-income countries,” said Krishna Udayakumar, director of Duke Global Health Innovation Center.

An assessment from Duke Global Health Innovation Center through its Launch and Scale Speedometer program indicates that 12 billion doses from different vaccines, enough to vaccinate 70 percent of the global population, could be available at the end of the year amid improved manufacturing capacity.

The analysis indicates a widening access gap as wealthy nations control the bulk of vaccine production and supply chains hence undermining efforts to contain the pandemic.

“But alongside the challenge of vaccine nationalism, our work highlights that manufacturing and supply issues remain the critical barriers,” said Andrea Taylor, head of COVID-19 vaccines research at Launch and Scale Speedometer program.

“There is very little transparency in the landscape, so it is difficult for country leaders to assess the feasibility of delivery schedules or to understand the risks and contingencies,” she added.

Taylor said that access to real-time data is key to help identify manufacturing and logistical bottlenecks that are hampering equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The assessment from Launch and Scale Speedometer indicates that over 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in over 130 countries, though manufacturing and supply constraints have undermined access and equity.

It says demand for the vaccines could outstrip supply in the coming months adding that the solution lies in technology transfer and sharing of patents to ramp up production in the low and middle-income countries. Enditem

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