Within the next few months Operation Wharp Speed 2.0 will deliver enough doses to vaccinate all Americans, and the domestic focus will turn to encouraging the reluctant, expanding service to children and underserved communities, and developing vaccines for new virus variants. We've got enough focus, expertise, and money to handle this. Now let's poke our heads out of the foxhole, and look at the rest of the world.
As of March 24, some 130 million doses had been administered in the United States, at a running rate of about 2.5 million per day, and with commitments from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to provide enough doses t0 vaccinate 300 million Americans (out of a population of 330 million of all ages) by the end of May. Add to that AstraZeneca which has been the global leader - approved in 100 countries, and committed to producing one billion doses for global use - but which has run afoul of US testing bureaucrats. Also add Novavax which has tested well in the UK and South Africa, but which has been slow in it's 30,000 person US trial. The gusher of federal money has included $22 billion for testing and vaccine distribution before President Trump left office. The faucet is full ON.
The rest of the world is not so lucky. Israel, Chile, and a handful of small countries exceed the US rate of 15% fully vaccinated. The UK made the apparently correct decision to delay second shots in favor of maximizing the 76 % effective AstraZeneca first shot and now have 53% with one shot. Canada is about 2% fully vaccinated; Mexico is .6%.
Europe is a mess - what EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen called the "crisis of the century" - as the EU passed legislation to ban exports of vaccines. Even the constantly "why can't we be more like Europe?" New York Times has discovered that the continental vaccination rate has lagged far behind Great Britain and the United States because the bureaucrats are more concerned about criticism for risk taking and nationalist infighting than a mounting death toll. It is each country for itself, with regulations preventing exports.
The international vaccination response for 92 low and middle income countries is coordinated by COVAX (Covid 19 Vaccines Global Access), begun by the World Health Organization, the European Commission, and the government of France in April 2020, and promptly joined by 165 countries. WHO's role includes sharing statistics and best practices, and providing Emergency Use Authorizations for candidate vaccines. While COVAX claimed to "have access to" 2 billion doses in December, actual deliveries from Pfizer and AstraZeneca will be under 5 million doses in the first half of 2021. Funding comes from 30 countries, plus philanthropies: the European Union promised about $1.1 billion; China $20 million over five years. President Trump opted out due to his conflict withe the World Health Organization, whose investigation of the disease's origin is still blocked by China. In January President Biden committed the lion's share of the group's funding, at $4 billion.
India which produces 60% of the world's vaccines in normal times, is perhaps second in importance to the United States in terms of defeating Covid. Bharat Biotech intends to produce 700 million doses of their traditionally produced vaccine by the end of the year, having begun their innoculation program in January while testing was still in progress. The Serum Institute of India is producing about 50 million doses per month of AstraZeneca's vaccine, also skating on the edge of technical approvals. India has exported both versions with a total of 58 million doses going to 71 countries - some commercially, some as diplomatic "gifts", and some under the COVAX umbrella - but has recently cut back to concentrate on the needs of their 1.4 billion people.
In February the Chinese began exporting vaccines produced by Sinovac and Sinopharm - without publishing clinical trial data or gaining WHO approval - to 22 countries with a goal of reaching 53, including Pakistan, Mexico, and many of the Belt and Road development partners. This month the United States, Australia, India, and Japan (the evolving Quad alliance) committed 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine to other Asian countries. Game on.
The next phase of Covid will be ugly, with countries representing the top 19% in wealth having purchased 54% of the committed vaccines, and projections that global supply will not meet demand until 2023. A dialogue is needed about increasing supply and balancing distribution for humanitarian reasons and because we are all at risk of mutations while the disease is rampant anywhere on the globe.
Some suggested American priorities:
- Mexico and Central America. Disease stifles economies; immigrants carry disease; the Chinese would love to make inroads in our back yard. (An easy opening gambit for VP Harris' new task as immigration czar.)
- Support for Israeli exports to Middle Eastern countries. (Start with those who have recognized her.)
- Technical and logistics support for Indian exports to South and Southeast Asia. (Particularly Taiwan and South China Sea countries threatened by China.)
- South Korea - with an understanding that North Korea will receive all that they will acccept. (An ice breaker for nuclear negotiations, preferably with South Korea in the lead.)
- Allies like Japan and Canada who need help. (An apology for the assault on Canada's oil and gas industry.)
- Production; production; production.
bill bowen - 3/25/21