Over one billion unused vaccine doses are estimated to go to waste by the end of 2021 due to wealthy nations’ surpluses, while the 50 least developed nations have received just 2 percent of the global supply.
COVAX, the WHO vaccine donation and distribution system primarily responsible for supplying developing nations, has so far been able to secure and distribute only 215 million doses— barely enough to partially vaccinate a sixth of the population of Africa. (In reality, only 6.7% of Africans are partially vaccinated).
Despite the WHO’s plea for wealthy nations to halt booster shot distribution until vaccine-deficient nations can catch up, several countries including the U.K. and U.S.— which have both struggled to contain the Delta variant— plan to start distributing Pfizer and Moderna booster shots this fall.
The Delta variant has alerted the global health community to the speed with which COVID-19 can mutate. Massive unvaccinated populations in areas with substandard health care could provide the perfect breeding ground for future variants.
The future of vaccine distribution in vaccine-deficient developing nations such as Haiti and Burkina Faso looks bleak, with herd immunity unlikely to be reached until 2023.
Monitoring progress in developing nations has presented its own challenges with vaccine reporting systems often unreliable and inconsistent.