Policy Brief | Achieving Global Vaccine Equity

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The approval and rollout of vaccines to protect against COVID-19 has provided the world with some relief and hope after more than a year of disruption and grief. Globally, the disease has marked over 216 million cases and killed nearly 4.5 million (although actual numbers are likely multiple times higher than official counts). Our global health and economic security lie in the balance. Reaching herd immunity against COVID-19 through vaccination is the only ethical and life-saving approach to ending the pandemic, requiring an estimated 11 billion doses to vaccinate 70% of the world's population (assuming two doses are given per person).

Yet inequalities in access to vaccines is staggering: 82% of the world’s COVID-19 vaccine supply has been administered to high income and upper-middle income countries; 57% of high-income countries’ populations have been vaccinated, compared to just 2% of low-income countries. As of July 7, 2021, low-income countries had received just 1% of the estimated 3.3 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide, and deals made by wealthy nations to secure vaccines for their own populations have driven up prices and potentially delayed COVAX deliveries.  At the current rate of vaccination, it is estimated to take 4.6 years to reach herd immunity globally.

The US government can and must lead the charge for the equitable and efficient distribution of vaccines throughout the world. We make the following recommendations for how it can do so:

  1. Put equity first: Immediately share more vaccine doses and materials with Low-Income Countries (LICs).
  2. Display global leadership in funding, sharing, and distributing vaccines equitably.
  3. Increase manufacturing capacity for vaccines globally.
  4. Leverage diplomatic, economic, assistance and other means to ensure inclusion of the most vulnerable, including refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), and the stateless into vaccine schemes.
  5. Utilize faith groups and faith leaders to disseminate positive messaging for vaccine acceptance and to counter mis- and dis-information.
  6. Continue to strengthen health systems while distributing vaccines.


Updated August 2021

For more information, please contact Sarah Baumunk at [email protected].