Vaccine Equity Concept Photo: NBCNews

Vaccine Equity: Why United States is not sharing extra doses with rest of the world

*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’ s data reveal that across the United States, there are more than 27 million unused Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine doses and 35 million Pfizer-BioNTech SE Vaccines… but there is no hidden US Vaccine stockpile ready to send abroad

*The shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic, says Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of World Health Organisation

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

As the race for vaccine research, production and distribution for vaccination against Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic climaxed late last year, America reportedly, has led the global community in buying and stacking up the messenger RNA vaccines that have proved most effective against the virus.

Incidentally, as several millions of people around the world are yet hoping to get vaccinated against the damaging disease, the United States (US), again, is beginning to lead in not using such vaccines.

ConsumerConnect gathered that across the US, there are more than 27 million unused Moderna Inc. doses and 35 million from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The development is said to have led to calls by prominent public health voices to pack America’s vaccine surplus in dry ice and ship it to places like India, where the outbreak is still raging ravenously.

However, there is no there’s no hidden US Vaccine stockpile ready to send abroad, just as America’s millions of unused doses are not an easy-to-ship surplus, Bloomberg report stated.

“You’re seeing supply exceed demand here and you just know there are excess doses,’’ said Monica Gandhi, a physician and Professor Of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, who authored a letter with more than two dozen colleagues calling on the US to ship spare Moderna doses to India.

As American vaccinations slow and doses accumulate, the US is at a health, ethical and diplomatic crossroads, report said.

China is exporting more doses than any other country, lifting its international profile and adding to its influence.

Should the US continue to buy and distribute millions of mRNA vaccines a week, targeting them at people who are in no hurry to be vaccinated or who are lower-risk?

Or should it pare back its orders and free up drugmakers to send more doses to other countries in need?

While it might seem simple to box up the spares and send them out, the reality is far more complex.

The fact is there is no stockpile of tens of millions of Moderna doses stacked up in a warehouse ready to be sent to other needy countries of the world.

It was learnt that most unused vaccine doses are scattered across tens of thousands of locations in the US, including state facilities, local pharmacies, vaccination sites, and other locations.

Gathering and sending them out of the country would be unmanageable, and undercut the US domestic effort, according to report.

Nonetheless, Pfizer, one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine producers, is already sending some shots manufactured in the US overseas.

Report also indicates that there may be millions more unused doses from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc available to send out in the coming weeks or months, but the exact date is unknown.

COVID-19 Vaccines of choice for much younger population

The two-dose mRNA vaccines have shown the highest efficacy rates of those cleared for use around the globe.

They are also the most challenging to store and ship, and have been bought up primarily by wealthier countries.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO

They have become the vaccines of choice for Americans, because of their availability and their perceived superiority.

Meanwhile, Pfizer’s shots have also been cleared for people ages 12 to 15, making them critical to the domestic effort to vaccinate teens in the country.

It may soon be authorised for even younger children, who are at relatively low risk from Covid, reducing what’s available for more defenceless populations abroad, report noted.

Kids as young as 12 will soon be able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, marking another milestone in the country’s already record-breaking vaccination campaign.

ConsumerConnect reports the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expanded emergency use authorisation for the Pfizer shot to include youths aged younger population in this age bracket Monday, May 10, 2021, making it the first Coronavirus vaccine authorised for younger teens and adolescents in the world.

States will be given the go-ahead to administer the shot to the new age group as soon as the CDC gives its final approval, expected last Wednesday, although doctors who already have doses on hand can use their discretion in using them before that, report stated.

The move, according to report, opens the door for another 5 percent of Americans (that is, nearly 17 million people) to get inoculated and 85 percent of the US population will soon be eligible for the vaccine.

Subsequently, US President Joe Biden has welcomed the news, and Monday said: “The light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and today it got a little brighter.”

The President’s comments reportedly highlighted the positive impact that the country’s robust vaccination programme has already had in bringing down cases, hospitalisations and deaths.

Almost 58 percent of US adults have already had at least one dose and 34 percent of the entire population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

Other parts of the world, however, are still battling cataclysmic outbreaks with few to no vaccines in sight, reminding us of the stark divisions caused by an inequitable global vaccine rollout.

High- and upper-middle income countries represent 53% of the world’s population, but have received 83% of the vaccines, while low- and lower-middle income countries ─which account for 47% of the global population ─ have received just 17% of the vaccines, according to new World Health Organisation (WHO) data.

In regard to vaccine equity, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, Monday stated: “Yes, vaccines are reducing severe disease and death in countries that are fortunate enough to have them in sufficient quantities, and early results suggest that vaccines might also drive down transmission.

“But the shocking global disparity in access to vaccines remains one of the biggest risks to ending the pandemic.”

COVID-19 vaccination

The WHO Chief added that “globally, we are still in a perilous situation,” pointing to a rapid rise in cases and deaths in the WHO’s South-East Asia region, which includes India, where the world’s worst Coronavirus outbreak continues to unfold, report added.

Between an ethical approach to global vaccinations and political reality

Commenting on the progress the US is making in respect of vaccinations, Richard Besser, a pediatrician and former Acting Director at CDC, said: “If we were truly interested in taking an ethical approach to vaccination, we would have vaccinated the most vulnerable people wherever they live, but that’s not the political reality.”

Besser, who is now Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, stated that “each country is focused on protecting its own”, which by implication means turning to American children first.

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