COVID-19 vaccine inequity will have a lasting impact on socio-economic recovery in low and lower-middle-income countries without urgent action to boost supply and assure equitable access for every country, including through dose sharing.
This is according to new data released on Thursday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the University of Oxford shows.
The organisations note that a high price per COVID-19 vaccine dose relative to other vaccines and delivery costs including for the health workforce surge could put a huge strain on fragile health systems and undermine routine immunization and essential health services and could cause alarming spikes in measles, pneumonia and diarrhoea.
An acceleration in scaling up manufacturing and sharing enough vaccine doses with low-income countries could have added USD 38 billion to their GDP forecast for 2021 if they had similar vaccination rates as high-income countries, according to the data.
There is also a clear risk in terms of foregone opportunities for the expansion of other immunization services, for example, the safe and effective rollout of HPV vaccines. Lower-income countries need timely access to sustainably priced vaccines and timely financial support.
These insights come from the Global Dashboard for COVID-19 Vaccine Equity, a joint initiative from UNDP, WHO and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, which combines the latest information on COVID-19 vaccination with the most recent socio-economic data to illustrate why accelerating vaccine equity is not only critical to saving lives but also to drive a faster and fairer recovery from the pandemic with benefits for all.
“In some low- and middle-income countries, less than 1 per cent of the population is vaccinated – this is contributing to a two-track recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, said UNDP Administrator, Achim Steiner. “It’s time for swift, collective action. This new COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Dashboard will provide Governments, policymakers and international organisations with unique insights to accelerate the global delivery of vaccines and mitigate the devastating socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.”
According to the new Dashboard, which builds on data from multiple entities including the IMF, World Bank, UNICEF and Gavi, and analysis on per capita GDP growth rates from the World Economic Outlook, richer countries are projected to vaccinate quicker and recover economically quicker from COVID-19, while poorer countries haven’t even been able to vaccinate their health workers and most at-risk population and may not achieve pre-COVID-19 levels of growth until 2024.
Meanwhile, Delta and other variants are driving some countries to reinstate strict public health social measures. This is further worsening the social, economic and health impact.
“Vaccine inequity is the world’s biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and recovering from COVID-19,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Economically, epidemiologically and morally, it is in all countries’ best interest to use the latest available data to make lifesaving vaccines available to all.”
Designed to empower policymakers to take urgent action to reduce vaccine inequity, the Global Dashboard breaks down the impact of accessibility against a target for countries to vaccinate their at-risk populations first to reduce mortality and protect the health system and then move on to vaccinating larger shares of the population to reduce disease burden and re-open socio-economic activity.