Inequalities around COVID-19 vaccinations worldwide led to increased spread, new variants and higher mortality rates
New research has shown the advantages of equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the globe.
When the COVID-19 vaccine was developed, it was heralded as a triumph for humanity. However, the roll-out of the vaccine was not equal across the world, with high-wealth countries benefitting from high numbers of doses per person, while low- and middle-income countries had far fewer by comparison. By January 2022, when the UK was giving out third booster doses some countries had vaccinated less than 2% of their population.
Now, a study by the University of Warwick has highlighted the perils of this “vaccine nationalism”. Using mathematical models and computer simulations, the team showed that having a more equal distribution of vaccines across the World would dramatically reduce infections, disease and death within less wealthy countries by providing earlier protection to the most vulnerable globally.
Furthermore, having a more equal distribution of vaccinations would in fact help, not hinder, all countries in the long term by slowing the development and spread of new variants. As such this was the first study to provide analytical evidence to support the global health message that vaccine distribution proportional to wealth, rather than to need, may be detrimental to all.
Research Fellow Samuel Moore commented: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic our team was fortunate to be able to support the UK’s world leading vaccine program though modelling work presented to SPI-M-O, SAGE and JCVI. This paper however hopes to drive a shift in focus, to show the importance of considering the global as well as national perspective in the event of any future pandemic.
“Our simulation included data from 152 countries during 2021 – the findings were stark, showing that more equal distribution of the vaccine worldwide could have prevented 0.3-1.5 billion infections and 1.3-3.7 million deaths worldwide by the end of 2021.
“We hope the research will help to shape national and international policies, ensuring that we learn from the COVID-19 outbreak. Vaccine distribution should be determined via need, as opposed to wealth, and this will lead to benefits to every country around the world, minimising viral spread and the development of new variants.”
7 November 2022