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One in four globally may not get Covid-19 vaccines until 2022

ROME: Nearly one in four people may not get Covid-19 vaccines until at least 2022 because rich countries with less than 15 per cent of the global population have reserved 51 per cent of the doses of the most promising vaccines, researchers have said.

Low- and middle-income countries - home to more than 85 per cent of the world's population - would have to share the remainder, said researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the United States.

An effective response to the pandemic requires high-income countries "to share in an equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines across the world", they wrote in a paper.

"The uncertainty over global access to Covid-19 vaccines traces not only to ongoing clinical testing, but also from the failure of governments and vaccine manufacturers to be more transparent and accountable over these arrangements," they added.

As of Nov 15, high-income nations had pre-ordered nearly 7.5 billion doses of vaccines from 13 manufacturers, the paper said. This included Japan, Australia and Canada who collectively have more than one billion doses but accounted for less than 1 per cent of current cases.

Even if leading manufacturers' vaccines reach their projected maximum production capacity, nearly 25 per cent of the world's population may not get the vaccines for another year or more, according to the researchers.

To add to the vaccine woes, the global scheme to deliver Covid-19 vaccines to poorer countries faces a "very high" risk of failure, potentially leaving nations, home to billions of people, with no access to them until as late as 2024, World Health Organisation (WHO) internal documents say.

The WHO's Covax programme is the main global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle-income countries around the world against the coronavirus.

But in internal documents reviewed by Reuters, the scheme's promoters say the programme is struggling from a lack of funds, supply risks and complex contractual arrangements.

"The risk of a failure to establish a successful Covax Facility is very high," said an internal report to the board of Gavi, an alliance of governments, drug companies, charities and international organisations that arranges global vaccination campaigns. Gavi co-leads Covax alongside the WHO. - REUTERS

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