Christmas Vaccine Inequity


Release date: 24 December 2021

The EU, UK and US have received more doses in the last six weeks than African countries have received all year. Global rollout at speed of UK’s booster programme could vaccinate the world by February. At current rates vaccine manufacturers will fail to deliver enough doses to fully vaccinate everyone in Africa by next Christmas.

More doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered to the EU, the UK and the United States in the six-week run up to Christmas than African countries have received all year, new analysis from the People’s Vaccine Alliance reveals today.

As Covid-19 clouds a second Christmas season in uncertainty and fear in many countries, campaigners warn that governments risk trapping the world in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions and even lockdowns, if low vaccination rates are allowed to persist in the global south.

Low and middle-income countries must be allowed to manufacture vaccines themselves to end vaccine inequality and prevent variants from derailing future Christmases, campaigners warn.

Between 11 November and 21 December 2021, the EU, UK and US have received 513 million doses of vaccines while countries in Africa received just 500 million throughout the whole of 2021.

The UK government, facing a rapid surge in Omicron variant, has a target of administering one million booster doses of Covid-19 vaccines a day in response, equivalent to vaccinating 1.46 percent of the population every day.

If every country was able to vaccinate at the same rate as the UK target, it would take just 68 days to deliver a first dose to everyone who needs one, leaving no one unvaccinated by the end of February 2022.

Just 8.6 percent of people in Africa have been fully vaccinated to date and at the current rate of delivery by vaccine manufacturers, it won’t be until April 2023 that everyone will receive their first dose. Recent research found that 78 percent of people in Africa are willing to get vaccinated, higher than in many rich countries.

G7 countries will have 1.4 billion surplus doses by March 2022, even after giving all adults a booster but are failing to deliver on donation pledges. The US has delivered just a quarter of the vaccines it promised to donate while the UK and Germany have delivered 15 percent and 14 percent respectively.

Anna Marriott, Health Policy Manager, Oxfam and the People’s Vaccine Alliance, said:

“Make no mistake rich country governments are to blame for the uncertainty and fear that is once again clouding Christmas. By blocking the real solutions to vaccine access in poorer countries they are prolonging the pandemic and all its suffering for every one of us.

“Rich countries are banking on boosters to keep them safe from Omicron and future variants of Covid-19. But boosters can never be more than a temporary and inadequate firewall. Extinguishing the threat of variants and ending this pandemic requires vaccinating the world. And that means sharing vaccine recipes and letting developing countries manufacture jabs for themselves.”

Experts have raised concerns that low vaccine coverage in the global south created conditions where a variant like Omicron was likely to emerge. Nine months ago, a survey of leading epidemiologists warned that persistent low vaccine coverage in parts of the world increased the risk of vaccine resistant variants emerging within a year or less.

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now, said:

“If we ever want to have a normal Christmas again, we need to vaccinate the world. But right now, the UK and EU are holding back international efforts to use and expand manufacturing and distribution capacity in low and middle-income countries. It’s reckless and risks trapping us in an endless cycle of variants, boosters, restrictions and even lockdowns.”

In October 2020, India and South Africa proposed a waiver of intellectual property rules on Covid-19 vaccines, tests and treatments to allow low and middle-income countries to manufacture these life-saving tools. Despite most countries, including the United States, supporting a waiver, the UK, EU, and Switzerland have prevented progress.

Maaza Seyoum from the African Alliance said:

“Leaders in the global north have so far chosen the obscene profits of pharmaceutical companies over the lives of people in Africa. But the Omicron variant shows that vaccine inequality is a threat to everyone, everywhere. Boris Johnson, Olaf Scholz, and European leaders need to finally support an intellectual property waiver and let Africa and the global south unlock its capacity to manufacture and distribute vaccines. Otherwise, humanity will never beat the race against the next variant.”

Human Rights Watch and Médecins Sans Frontières identified over 100 manufacturers that could produce mRNA vaccines if intellectual property barriers were removed and pharmaceutical companies transferred the technology and knowhow needed.

Despite already making billions in profit, Pfizer and Moderna continue to refuse to share the new generation of vaccine technology with the WHO’s mRNA hub in South Africa. WHO scientists are now attempting to reverse engineer Moderna’s US-taxpayer-funded vaccine, a process that could take two years longer than if the company shared its vaccine recipe.

Every major vaccine provider has boycotted the WHO’s Covid-19 technology access pool (C-TAP), a technology transfer programme established in May 2020 to share the recipe and knowhow needed to manufacture coronavirus vaccines, tests and treatments.

In a video marking World Aids Day, Prince Harry called on governments to break vaccine monopolies, joining over 170 former world leaders and Nobel Laureates, the Pope and more than 13 million people in their support for the waiver.


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Notes to editors:

  • Data on delivery from Airfinity, analysed by People’s Vaccine Alliance.
  • In total the EU and UK and US have received over 2 billion vaccine doses, including boosters, as well as first and second doses.
  • Our World in Data was used to calculate how many doses were needed to vaccinate people in Africa.
  • Over the last 40 days, African countries are receiving on average enough doses to fully vaccinate 3 million a day (fully vaccinates is 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson and 2 doses for all other vaccines). At this rate, it will take 438 days for everyone currently unvaccinated in Africa to be fully vaccinated.
  • While rich countries have cut bilateral deals with pharmaceutical companies to secure doses, poorer countries have depended on Covax, the multilateral mechanism for equitably distributing Covid-19 vaccines, which has repeatedly cut delivery forecasts, as well as a trickle of donations from wealthy countries which are often close to their expiry dates.
  • Numbers of doses donated by rich countries page 7
  • Pharmaceutical monopolies will net Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna $34 billion this year in pre-tax profits.