The following is part of a series of Catalyst posts detailing each of the five strategies to advance COVID-19 global vaccine equity – which rely on and benefit from a strong innovation ecosystem.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been met with the most efficient vaccine development process in history. Even before the first emergency use authorization, the biopharmaceutical industry knew that scaling up manufacturing capabilities at unprecedented speeds would be critical and we committed to share the available capacity and engage in diverse partnerships to support the global production and distribution of vaccines; the industry also signed on as a founding partner to the World Health Organization’s ACT-Accelerator.
Even with these commitments, much remains to be done to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are equitably distributed to all. As biopharmaceutical innovators and governments work as quickly as possible to broaden global access to COVID-19 vaccines, one of the strategies helping to accelerate this process is dose sharing.
Dose sharing entails working with governments that have directly purchased COVID-19 vaccine doses to contribute to the global supply through COVAX or other efficient, established distribution mechanisms. Collaboration to increase dose sharing has been one of the most immediate steps to close the vaccine coverage gap, redirecting doses to low- and middle-income countries that did not secure agreements with vaccine manufacturers earlier in the pandemic.
While there is more to be done, a meaningful number of doses have already been committed, and increasingly distributed, to populations who can benefit. Examples include:
- The United States made an 80-million dose sharing commitment, either supplying doses through COVAX or directly to countries in need by mid-2021. Three-quarters of the doses being distributed through COVAX are earmarked for Latin America, the Caribbean, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa. The United States has already begun sharing the remaining 25 percent of doses directly with dozens of countries around the world – as exemplified by recent deliveries to Colombia, Ukraine, Jordan, South Africa and Indonesia. In June, the Biden Administration announced that the United States will also donate half a billion Pfizer vaccines to the world’s lowest income nations.
- The European Union (EU) made a commitment earlier this spring to share 10 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with five EU countries in greatest need – Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia – redistributing doses originally allocated for 19 other EU nations. The EU anticipates that 70 percent of its adult population will be vaccinated by the end of this month; this dose-sharing effort, which promised to distribute the vaccines beforehand, will help advance that goal.
- New Zealand shared 1.6 million doses through COVAX. Six Pacific nations have benefitted from this effort: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga and Tuvalu.
- The United Arab Emirates is also leveraging COVAX to supply lower-income countries with 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. In addition, the country plans to support vaccine distribution as a hub in the Middle East.
With millions of doses either shared or making their way to nations in need, we are already seeing the benefits of dose sharing as a strategy to promote COVID-19 vaccine equity. Leaders should focus on this and other meaningful solutions to ensure more shots are administered to more people.
Rather than pursuing misguided proposals to waive international commitments to protect intellectual property (IP) for COVID-19 innovations, industry supports practical strategies like dose sharing that better serve low- and middle-income nations while also upholding the IP ecosystem that made COVID-19 innovation possible.
Megan Van Etten Megan Van Etten is senior director of public affairs at PhRMA. She is responsible for leading the association’s public affairs efforts on international issues, including trade, intellectual property and access to medicines. Prior to joining PhRMA, Megan was director of media and external communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and communications director at the Beer Institute. She has also worked as a communications consultant for global public relations firms. When not at the office, Megan enjoys exploring new Washington, D.C. restaurants and traveling with her husband and friends.