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The 9 countries that gobbled up three quarters of the world's vaccines – 'No one is safe until we're all safe'

Matilda Long
·4-min read
The vast majority of the world's vaccines have been administered in a few – mostly rich – countries.
The vast majority of the world's vaccines have been administered in a few – mostly rich – countries. (Getty Images/ Flourish)

As the news of breakthroughs in the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine began to emerge from laboratories last year, some countries went on a shopping spree.

Nations jostled to get their orders in, buying up supplies ready to roll out as soon as vaccines were approved by regulators.

So far, 319.56 million vaccine doses have been administered worldwide – almost three times as many as the total number of infections recorded globally, and an unprecedented achievement considering the virus only first emerged about 15 months ago.

Yet, two statistics highlight the enormous inequality in the way the global rollout has taken place.

One: Three-quarters of all vaccines have gone to people in just 9 countries

Two: More than 100 countries are yet to administer a single vaccine

The result? While experts agree that the pandemic can only be controlled when the whole world is safe, the vast majority of life-saving jabs are being handed out in a handful of mostly wealthy nations.

Yahoo News UK has taken a look at the numbers behind the race to a protect a population.

This chart shows the how many of the total global number of doses have gone to the top nine countries, compared to the rest of the world

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Looking at vaccine levels as a proportion of countries' populations paints a similar picture, with a small number of nations storming ahead while the vast majority are left trailing.

Globally, an average of 4.1 doses per 100 people have been administered.

In Israel, the nation that has carried out the most vaccines as a proportion of its population, this figure is 103.7. In the UK, 35.02 doses have been administered per 100 people.

Read more: All UK adults could be offered vaccine by May

Out of the 10 countries that have carried out the most vaccines per 100 people, eight are classified as 'high income' by the World Bank. Serbia and the Maldives are the only two nations not on that list.

This chart shows the countries with the most COVID-19 vaccine doses administered per 100 people

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The UK, with its newly put together vaccine taskforce, shot to the front of the queue to roll out the COVID vaccine.

On 8 December 2020, grandmother Margaret Keenan became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, receiving a dose from nurse May Parsons at Coventry hospital.

Since then, some 23,773,959 doses have been administered in the UK.

This chart shows the pace of the UK's vaccine rollout since daily figures were made available

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While there is no doubt this figure represents a remarkable effort in the fight against COVID-19, leaving poor countries behind while rich ones gobble up supplies poses huge risks for the global pandemic effort.

As the UK's own vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi put it in February: "No one is really safe until the whole world is safe."

In a bid to encourage fair distribution of jabs, the World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries that have vaccinated their health workers and elderly populations to give their vaccine stocks to poorer nations.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, said in February: “All governments have an obligation to protect their own people but once countries have vaccinated their own health workers and older people the best way to protect the rest of their own population is to share vaccines so other countries can do the same."

So far there has been little appetite to adopt this approach.

According to analysis by Duke's University, rich countries have bought up more than half of vaccines purchased and "don’t want to share until they’ve had their fill".

However, that is not to say no commitments have been made to improve vaccine equity.

The WHO-backed COVAX scheme, set up to distribute vaccines to nations that need them, plans to deliver 237 million doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to 142 countries over the next three months.

WATCH: First batch of COVAX vaccines arrive in Kenya

The scheme aims to make two billion doses available to low and middle income countries by the end of the year.

The jabs will be free for the 92 poorest countries.

These are the countries that have been allocated the most doses by the COVAX scheme

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COVAX-backed doses have already been administered in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana after deliveries to both countries last week.

Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive of vaccine alliance GAVI, called COVAX "the only truly global solution to this pandemic".

He said:"For lower-income funded nations, who would otherwise be unable to afford these vaccines, as well as a number of higher-income self-financing countries that have no bilateral deals with manufacturers, COVAX is quite literally a lifeline and the only viable way in which their citizens will get access to COVID-19 vaccines.

"For the wealthiest self-financing countries, some of which may also be negotiating bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, it serves as an invaluable insurance policy to protect their citizens, both directly and indirectly."

Watch: How England will leave lockdown