January 25, 2021


Weekly COVID Vaccine Research Update

Original post can be found on the Duke Global Health Innovation Center's Launch and Scale Speedometer website.

Data Updates

High-income country confirmed dose total: 4.2 billion
Upper-middle-income country total: 1.2 billion
Lower-middle-income country total: 524 million
Low-income country total: 670 million
COVAX total: 1.11 billion
Total worldwide confirmed purchases of Covid-19 vaccines: 7.2 billion doses

Weekly Insights and Interesting Trends

Author: Andrea Taylor

What is at Stake in EU’s Move to Control Vaccine Exports

AstraZeneca recently alerted the EU that it would only be able to deliver 25% of the 80-100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine expected this quarter, due to production problems in the European plants. The EU responded by suggesting, in the firmest of tones, that AstraZeneca divert doses from the (recently Brexited) UK manufacturing plants to fulfill the EU contract. AstraZeneca replied that would be impossible, as its UK contract stipulates that doses purchased by the UK must be delivered before their manufacturing capacity can be used for other orders. The EU, with a tone closer to furious, respectfully disagreed.

Amid this row, the EU approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and then immediately followed this with export controls. Under the new controls, EU member states can block exports of Covid-19 vaccines if they believe that the vaccine producers are in danger of not meeting their supply contracts with the EU. (The EU appears to be targeting certain countries, including the UK, Canada, the US, and Australia, as it has exempted more than 90 other countries and COVAX from these controls.)

In essence, the EU is saying it will use its significant vaccine production capacity to serve itself first, the world second. And if vaccine producers don’t get in line, the EU will prevent them from fulfilling their global contracts.

Despite rhetoric from EU leaders over the past months about the need for “unprecedented global cooperation,” and calls to treat Covid-19 vaccines as “global public goods” rather than “bargaining chips,” we are now seeing what happens when their own supply is threatened.

To be clear, production of Covid-19 vaccines is incredibly complex, with many partners and pieces coming together. We’ve seen many vaccine developers walk back manufacturing projections over the past 4 months and we will see more production delays in the coming year.

The move by the EU reminds us that, amongst this dynamic landscape, the flow of imports and exports are subject to sovereign whims. As leaders in Australia and Japan noted this past week, the best way to secure vaccine supply is with local production. Countries and regions with limited capacity to develop or manufacture vaccines are most at risk, including most of Africa.

A new report commissioned by the International Chamber of Commerce paints the harshest picture yet of the consequences of unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines globally, modeling economic losses of US $1.5-9.2 trillion, at least half of that falling on wealthy countries. To prevent this, we need to take a global view of vaccine manufacturing, not just distribution.

As a global community, we need to invest now in manufacturing capacity on every continent and every region to ensure truly global response to future pandemics. Nationalism may be inevitable in a global crisis but we can soften the blow and prevent the worst.

More to come from us soon on the importance of manufacturing. Our team is working on new analysis of global vaccine manufacturing data, which we hope to release later this month.

Interesting Trends

Significant updates, changes, and trends we saw last week:

For more information on this research and our findings, please go to https://launchandscalefaster.org/COVID–19.