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  • The race between infection and injection is on

  • But immunising the global population against covid-19…

  • presents an unprecedented challenge

  • No one has ever tried to vaccinate an entire planet

  • as fast as they're trying to do it now

  • The rich world has most of the global vaccine supply

  • Prompting many countries to turn to Chinese and Russian jabs

  • when it's not yet completely clear how safe or effective they are

  • It might turn out that these are really great vaccines

  • but unless you see the underlying data, you can't be absolutely sure

  • Will gambling on these jabs pay off

  • or could it have negative consequences...

  • ...for the great vaccination drive

  • New mutations of covid-19…

  • are placing health systems under increasing strain

  • And the stakes are higher than ever

  • in the global vaccination race

  • It's amazing we've even got these vaccines at all

  • This has happened in under a year

  • It's a miracle, I think

  • The challenge for the world now

  • is how to supply and distribute these vaccines

  • Just a handful of countries

  • have managed to give a first dose

  • to over 5% of their population

  • And some vaccines are easier to distribute than others

  • Of the three jabs to have been approved for use

  • by stringent regulators

  • Two, made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna

  • require storage at low temperatures

  • making them more suitable for use in the rich world

  • Israel is leading the roll-out of the Pfizer jab

  • Just over 30% of the population have received at least one dose

  • making them the most immunised nation in the world

  • Israel was helped by a deal with Pfizer, which gave it access to jabs

  • in exchange for data about how the vaccine was working

  • And the country's size and population density also helped

  • Israel is a small country and distributing the Pfizer vaccine is easier

  • when you can move it around without it heating up and spoiling

  • The third vaccine to receive authorisation

  • from stringent regulatory bodies

  • offers hope of wider and faster distribution

  • Developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University

  • it can be kept in a normal fridge

  • The AstraZeneca vaccine is the vaccine

  • …I think that most of the world will use

  • it's cheap, it will be plentiful

  • and will be made in lots of places around the world

  • But rolling out this vaccine poses two big challenges

  • First, many poorer countries

  • will struggle to get it into arms quickly and safely

  • It's much more than just flying them to the airport

  • Even though the Astra vaccine is suitable

  • because it can go in a fridge

  • even India is going to have a realcold chainproblem

  • And the second problem

  • is that the vast majority of these jabs

  • have already been snapped up by the rich world

  • Three-fifths of the two billion confirmed orders

  • of AstraZeneca doses will go to high-income countries

  • Along with all of the Moderna vaccine

  • and almost three-quarters of the Pfizer vaccine

  • Even taking into account the high death rates in the rich world

  • some nations pre-ordered significantly more

  • than they will need

  • America ordered enough to vaccinate the population twice over

  • The UK ordered enough to vaccinate the population

  • three times

  • And Canada, where deaths have been relatively low

  • ordered enough to vaccinate the population five times

  • The director-general of the World Health Organisation

  • has dubbed this hoarding a “me firstapproach

  • which could increase suffering and prolong the pandemic

  • Rich countries ordered more vaccine than they need

  • they, at some point, are going to have to donate some of it

  • The question is, when are they going to donate?

  • That is a political question

  • and will depend on the mood of the countries involved

  • The good news is that there is a scheme

  • to make sure lower- and middle-income countries

  • have access to jabs

  • It's called COVAX and works like a global vaccine-buying club

  • that allows rich countries to subsidise vaccines

  • for poorer countries and pool demand

  • to get better prices

  • Following his inauguration

  • President Biden was quick to announce

  • America would join the group of 190 participating economies

  • The big hope in COVAX

  • is that about 3% of each country's population

  • will have got adequate supplies of vaccine by the summer

  • That's roughly the number of health-care workers

  • in most countries

  • That's quite a lot, but not enough by any means

  • to vaccinate much of the world's population

  • That leaves a large global shortfall in safe and effective vaccines

  • And in an attempt to make up for this

  • many countries are turning to China and Russia

  • Both nations have made vaccines which they say work and are safe

  • The problem is it's hard to know if that's true

  • They were approved before having gone through phase-three trials

  • It might turn out that these are really great vaccines

  • which would be really good for the world

  • But unless you see the underlying data

  • you can't be absolutely sure

  • Governments desperate to immunise their populations

  • have been making deals directly with the jab developers

  • to host clinical trials in exchange for vaccinations

  • [These vaccines] will be used for global public good

  • and we will prioritise developing countries

  • Chinese vaccines are being used or trialled

  • in several countries around the world

  • Including high-income nations

  • like the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain

  • which are just behind Israel

  • in terms of the doses of vaccine delivered per head

  • That's good news for China

  • but it's raised concerns

  • the country may be exploiting the vaccine roll-out

  • for political purposes

  • The pandemic is such a kind of global event

  • that inevitably soft power becomes a factor too

  • If you look at the way China has been doing deals with countries

  • to give its vaccine to, say, countries in the Middle East

  • it's part of a move to try and build relationships

  • with those countries

  • The lack of transparency around some of these trials is worrying

  • The full Sinopharm trial data from the UAE were never published

  • And tests of a different Chinese vaccine in Brazil

  • have also raised questions

  • A jab made by Chinese company Sinovac

  • was initially found to have 78% efficacy

  • but this was later downgraded to 50%…

  • just clearing the threshold for emergency approval

  • from regulators

  • None of these countries are free to disclose their data

  • in the way they would like

  • because they're bound by contractual arrangements

  • with the Chinese

  • so they can't tell us what we want to know

  • This lack of transparency has important knock-on effects on trust

  • and trust in vaccines is crucial for making them effective

  • Trust is what determines

  • how many people are willing to take the vaccine

  • Maximum trust depends, I think, on maximum transparency

  • The vaccine roll-out

  • that has perhaps raised most concerns around trust

  • has come from Russia

  • This morning

  • the world's first vaccine against coronavirus was registered

  • The vaccine, named Sputnik V…

  • was authorised in Russia last summer

  • after being tested on just 76 people

  • and has since been cleared for emergency use

  • in 14 countries worldwide

  • It's no accident that the Russian vaccine is called Sputnik V…

  • …a reference to one of the great soft power triumphs

  • of the Soviet Union in getting the first man-made object

  • into space

  • It was the first vaccine to be announced and frankly

  • it was rushed out

  • In some ways it was designed to burnish Russia's reputation

  • But the fact that it went to those lengths

  • and cut those corners

  • has done Russia's reputation no favours

  • Getting the vaccine roll-out right matters

  • Modelling suggests if jabs are distributed according to global need

  • rather than being concentrated in rich countries alone

  • it could save one-and-a-half times more lives

  • But doing this will require levels of global co-operation

  • that have been lacking in recent years

  • If the world gets it right

  • it could pave the way for greater collaboration

  • on issues like climate change

  • Get it wrong, and it could deepen the cracks

  • in an already fragmented global system

  • If it's seen that the pandemic has been dealt with well

  • and fairly and that the mechanisms for governing the world

  • have functioned, then that's an enormous vote of confidence

  • But if the pandemic is seen as selfish and fractious

  • it makes all those other issues much harder to deal with

  • I'm Edward Carr, The Economist's deputy editor

  • I hope you've enjoyed this film

  • If you want to read more of our covid coverage

  • please click on the link opposite

  • and keep an eye out for The Jab

  • our new covid podcast

  • and don't forget to subscribe

The race between infection and injection is on

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Covid-19: what will it take to vaccinate the world? | The Economist

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    joey joey posted on 2021/05/23
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