barroso8_MARK LENNIHANPOOLAFP via Getty Images_vacciens MARK LENNIHANPOOLAFP via Getty Images

Breaking COVID's Grip

COVAX and the other international organizations committed to vaccine equity cannot end the COVID-19 pandemic without the continued support of governments, industry, and civil society. By working together, the world has a chance to tame the coronavirus once and for all.

GENEVA – Two years into the worst pandemic in a century, it is tempting to think that the world is stuck in a time warp, unable to shake off a virus that has so far killed more than 5.5 million people and wrecked countless livelihoods. But the truth is that in the 15 months since the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) facility first gained the support of the international community, much has changed.

In September 2020, we did not know whether scientists would be able to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Now we have several. Nor did we know back then that industry would succeed in scaling up production. But, in the event, 11 billion doses were manufactured last year.

Sadly, these successes also serve to highlight where the world has failed in its efforts to combat the pandemic. Although the world produced enough COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021 to vaccinate every adult on the planet, more than three billion people, most of them living in lower-income countries, have yet to receive their first dose. High-income countries have an average vaccination rate of over 75% and are now focusing on booster programs. In Africa, by contrast, roughly 10% of the population is fully vaccinated, on average, and health systems are still catching up with primary vaccinations.