The first COVID-19 vaccines are likely to soon be approved in both Europe and the US. With wealthy industrial nations are already securing supplies, the question arises as to whether economically developing countries will also get immediate access.

Timeframe for Vaccine Release in EU and US

The good news about possible vaccines against the coronavirus is mounting. The manufacturers BioNtech, Moderna, and Pfizer, report promising results from tests. Two vaccines could potentially be approved in Europe and the US in December.

Nevertheless, it is already known that the finished vaccines are far from being able to meet public demand, at least in the first few months.

This raises the question of who receives the vaccine first and who will have to wait. Some of the world’s wealthiest nations have already secured large quantities of the two most promising vaccines.

Vaccine Supply is Limited

In fact, BioNtech and Pfizer have already sold more than 570 million doses: 200 million to the European Union and 100 million to the United States. An additional 100 million for the EU and 500 million for the US can be purchased optionally.

Moderna, a third manufacturer, expects to manufacture at least 500 million doses – possibly up to one billion doses per year. At the same time, Moderna has already committed 100 million doses to the US and has also agreed to an optional delivery of 400 million. Canada, Japan, Qatar, Great Britain, Israel, and Switzerland have secured another 100 million doses. The EU is currently negotiating with Moderna.

With the quantities allocated towards wealthy nations, the rest of the world appears to be getting shut out, and some voices are calling for rich countries to share their vaccine supply with struggling nations.

Introducing Covax

To overcome this issue, Covax was created by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Global Vaccination Alliance (GAVI), and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI). Almost all countries in the world have now declared that they support the initiative, except for the US and Russia.

Nevertheless, it seems realistic that sufficient vaccines can be produced for all people worldwide in the medium term, as many different vaccines are being developed. Almost 50 agents are currently being tested in clinical studies, and around a dozen have already reached the final phase 3.

The Oxford University Vaccine

Experts are currently excited about further results from extensive studies by other manufacturers. The first data are now also available for the Oxford University vaccine, which it is developing together with AstraZeneca’s British pharmaceutical company.

AstraZeneca cooperates with several manufacturers worldwide in order to be able to provide large quantities. The Serum Institute of India alone is expected to produce around one billion doses by the end of 2021. In total, the group has already concluded production and supply agreements for more than three billion doses, with a significant provision included for poorer countries. The Covax initiative is to receive 300 million doses.

Other pharmaceutical giants such as Johnson & Johnson or GSK and Sanofi — who are jointly developing a vaccine — aim for approval in the first half of 2021.

They, too, have pledged to deliver hundreds of millions of doses to Covax. In principle, Pfizer and BioNtech, as well as Moderna, also seek to support the initiative. However, they have not yet pledged specific quantities.

There are also several Chinese and Russian manufacturers, as well as Novavax in the US and Curevac in Germany. They, too, are expected to produce hundreds of millions of doses, provided their vaccine is approved, of course.

Covax Challenges Remain

Manufacturers can currently submit offers for the Covax initiative, with the goal to distribute two billion doses.

However, the range of possible vaccines alone appears insufficient. Covax also needs sufficient money. So far, several countries, as well as some private companies and foundations, have pledged almost five billion dollars. However, according to the WHO, at least eleven billion dollars are necessary to buy and distribute the targeted two billion doses.

Accordingly, the G20’s communique stated that they were “determined to tackle the remaining financial requirements.”