Dame Sarah Gilbert, who spearheaded the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, called for urgent action from wealthier nations saying “no one is safe until we are all safe”
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More than 40% of the world’s population have now been vaccinated against Covid-19 – but fewer than 2% in lower income countries.
The Oxford University professor who created the AstraZeneca jab has cited the statistic in an open letter demanding more doses are shared around the world.
Dame Sarah Gilbert reiterated that “no-one is safe until we are all safe” as she called for urgent action from wealthier nations.
She wrote: “It is more crucial than ever that we do not forget the lives that could be saved by administering first and second doses to the most vulnerable populations worldwide and the opportunity that the global distribution of vaccine provides to protect all of us by reducing the selection of further variants.”
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Some 41.5% of the world’s population had received at least one dose by September, yet only 1.9% of people in low-income countries had.
The Oxford-developed AstraZeneca jab has been used most in poorer countries but limited supplies saw wealthier countries stockpile supplies.
Dame Sarah said wealthier countries are about to have an “embarrassment of riches” as more doses are produced here.
She warned poorer countries still do not have the infrastructure to distribute and administer widespread vaccination programmes.
She said: “Whereas constraints on the supply of a limited number of products in the initial stages of the vaccine rollout resulted in intense competition for these doses and grave inequities in their distribution, we can now imagine facing a very different problem in the coming months.
“One in which the volume of supply exceeds the capacity to absorb and dispense vaccine in the countries with the greatest outstanding needs.
“The new imperative for international relief efforts will be to support delivery at scale to ensure that recipient countries are able to reach their coverage goals quickly.
“There remain significant challenges, from transportation of a vaccine in a country – especially with vaccines that have to be kept ultra-cold – to intangibles such as the pervasiveness of vaccine hesitancy.
“Ensuring that these life-saving doses reach the people in danger is one of the most urgent challenges of the next phase of this global pandemic.”
Her letter is co-wrote with Dr Richard Hatchett, the chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and is published in the Science Translational Medicine journal.
Dr Hatchett added: “While over 6.3 billion doses of these vaccines have been administered to date, equitable access to these life-saving tools remains woefully inadequate and must be urgently addressed.”