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TOPSHOT – A health worker prepares to inoculate a man with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, at Santa Anita district on the eastern outskirts of Lima on November 15, 2021. – The Ministry of Health in coordination with the Municipality of Santa Anita carry out the intensive nightly vaccinate campaign in order to increase the number of people protected against Covid-19 virus. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP) (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images)
Exclusive: Despite boosters, surplus vaccines remain

Exclusive: Despite boosters, surplus vaccines remain

TOPSHOT – A health worker prepares to inoculate a man with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, at Santa Anita district on the eastern outskirts of Lima on November 15, 2021. – The Ministry of Health in coordination with the Municipality of Santa Anita carry out the intensive nightly vaccinate campaign in order to increase the number of people protected against Covid-19 virus. (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP) (Photo by ERNESTO BENAVIDES/AFP via Getty Images)

New data reveals the boosters versus global vaccine equality debate is largely bogus

Tortoise can today reveal that, even accounting for the EU and G7 countries’ accelerated booster programs and the emergence of the Omicron variant, the world’s richer nations will still have a large stockpile of spare doses. 

According to new analysis by the data company Airfinity, despite the changes in the booster policies of the world’s richest countries there will still be close to 1.4 billion spare doses by the end of March 2022.

The EU and G7 would therefore still have ample supply available for redistribution to low-income countries – suggesting that the now-familiar “boosters or vaccine equality?” debate remains largely bogus.

The booster announcements do dent previous predictions of surpluses. In September, Airfinity had forecast that there would be more than a billion doses available to redistribute before the end of the year. 

The UK government on Tuesday rapidly expanded its booster programme, with the purchase of 114 million new vaccine doses prompting speculation that surpluses may no longer exist.

But even accounting for this acceleration – with all adults to be offered their booster before the end of January – there could still be 880 million spare doses in the G7 and EU available for redistribution to low-income countries.

Of the 1.4 billion surplus, 500 million are already earmarked for delivery to low-income countries by April 2022 and accounted for in the existing pledges of G7 and EU countries – leaving between around 880 million and 1.1 billion available vaccines by March 2022.

Calculations exclude doses which have already been donated. The G7 and EU have pledged 1.94 billion vaccines, of which 23 per cent have been delivered. 

The WHO and UN, in addition to the G20 member states, have set a target of at least 40 per cent vaccination coverage in every country by the end of 2021. On current estimates, former prime minister Gordon Brown has said that this will be reached only in April 2022 – with 82 countries set to miss the target.

Pfizer and Moderna CEOs have in recent days signalled the possible need for third, and possibly fourth, booster shots to offer maximal protection against the Omicron variant. The prospect raises questions about vaccine supply for low-income countries. In Africa, for instance, just 7 per cent are vaccinated and 90 per cent of healthcare workers remain unprotected. 

Tortoise’s #TheArmsRace campaign has argued for equal vaccine access, while tracking pledged donations and deliveries as part of our vaccine tracker. Over half of the world population has received at least a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine but, in low-income countries, this figure is 6 per cent.