Vaccine Apartheid

The emergence of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, has exposed the risks of an unvaccinated world. What does global vaccine inequality look like? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37.5 million people have received a booster dose in the U.S.[1] That exceeds the number of people who have gotten a single COVID-19 vaccine dose in eight Southern African countries.

Table 1: Vaccination Coverage in Southern Africa

Country People with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose[2]
Botswana 883,188
Eswatini 259,022
Lesotho 581,857
Malawi 1.12 million
Mozambique 6.26 million
Namibia 355,254
South Africa 17.02 million
Zimbabwe 3.77 million
Total 30.25 million

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. has sent 11.2 million doses to those eight countries in Southern Africa. That is less than what the U.S. distributed at home in one week in November (Nov. 17 – 24).[3]

Table 2: U.S. Donations to Southern African Countries

Country Pfizer Moderna J&J Unspecified Total
Botswana[4] 81,000 0 0 100,620 181,620
Eswatini[5] 100,620 0 302,000 0 402,620
Lesotho[6] 100,620 0 302,400, 169,070 0 572,090
Malawi[7] 302,400 0 0 168,000 470,400
Mozambique[8] 0 0 302,000

336,000

840,000

0 1,478,000
Namibia[9] 100,620

124,020

0 0 0 224,640
South Africa[10] 5,660,460

2,217,150

0 0 0 7,877,610
Zimbabwe 0 0 0 0 0
Total 8,686,890 0 2,251,470 268,620 11,206,980

The lack of supply for developing countries is a key constraint to vaccinating the world. Indeed, many low- and middle- income countries have higher rates of vaccine acceptance than wealthy countries.[11] In Botswana—where Omicron was first detected—national surveys showed a 76% vaccine acceptance rate.[12] Yet only 20 percent of the population has gotten fully vaccinated so far.[13] Some people in Botswana have even travelled to other countries to get the vaccine.[14]

The Biden administration has responded to criticisms about prioritizing booster shots over global vaccinations by calling it a “false choice.”[15] But until the U.S. government uses its power under the Defense Production Act to share the vaccine recipe and make surge investments in global vaccine production, that choice will remain true—and only become increasingly stark.[16]

 

References

[1] https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home

[2] Data Retrieved from November 29 2021, https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

[3] 13.7 million doses. November 24, 572190175 to November 17, 558460315. https://data.cdc.gov/Vaccinations/COVID-19-Vaccinations-in-the-United-States-Jurisdi/unsk-b7fc

[4] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/botswana/#covid_map_link

[5] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/eswatini/#covid_map_link

[6] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/lesotho/#covid_map_link

[7] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/malawi/#covid_map_link

[8] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/mozambique/#covid_map_link

[9] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/namibia/#covid_map_link

[10] https://www.state.gov/countries-areas/south-africa/#covid_map_link

[11] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-021-01454-y

[12] https://www.afro.who.int/news/learning-botswanas-covid-19-vaccine-rollout

[13] https://ourworldindata.org/covid-vaccinations

[14] https://www.news24.com/citypress/news/botswana-citizens-flock-to-sa-to-get-the-jab-20210905

[15] https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/press-briefings/2021/08/04/press-briefing-by-press-secretary-jen-psaki-august-4-2021/

[16] https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20210804.101816/full/