The World Health Organization has launched the Strategy to Achieve Global Covid-19 Vaccination by mid-2022 (the Strategy) to help bring an end to what has become a two-track pandemic: people in poorer countries continue to be at risk while those in richer countries with high vaccination rates enjoy much greater protection.
WHO had set a target to vaccinate 10% of every country, economy and territory by the end of September but by that date 56 countries had not been able to do so, the vast majority of these are countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The new strategy outlines a plan for achieving WHO’s targets to vaccinate 40% of the population of every country by the end of this year and 70% by mid-2022.
WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Science has played its part by delivering powerful, life-saving tools faster than for any outbreak in history. 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.”
To achieve the global vaccination targets, there should be a three-step approach to vaccination, with all older adults, health workers, and high-risk groups of all ages, in every country vaccinated first, followed by the full adult age group in every country and lastly extended vaccination of adolescents.
Vaccinating 70% of the global population requires at least 11 billion vaccine doses. By the end of September, just over 6 billion doses had already been administered worldwide. With global vaccine production now at nearly 1.5 billion doses per month, there is sufficient vaccine from a supply perspective to achieve the global vaccination targets provided that there is equitable distribution of those doses.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “This is a costed, coordinated and credible path out of the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere. 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.”
Substantial financing has already been invested to procure most of the required vaccine doses for low- and lower-middle-income countries through COVAX, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and bilateral contracts. There needs to be additional investment to secure the remaining vaccine doses for these countries as well as investment to support in-country delivery.