April 25, 2021: Less than five months after the first needle passed to the first arm to deliver the first COVID-19 vaccine for a 90-year-old grandmother in the UK, the world celebrated the billion dose coronavirus-blocking vaccine this weekend.
While it’s not clear who received the billion dose, or where it went, the milestone alone is remarkable.
Remarkable, but not enough. Bloomberg reports that the world is dispensing 18.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines per day. At this rate, however, it would take 19 months for even 75% of the world to be vaccinated.
Worse, geographical victories in the fight against COVID-19 lean sharply toward rich countries.
In India, where new daily cases have exceeded 300,000 in one week, only 1.4% of the population has been completely vaccinated, The Washington Post reported. Compare that to the United States, where 25% of adults are fully vaccinated and more than 40% have received at least one dose, while some states and cities reject doses due to lack of demand for shots.
Criticism in the United States and the United Kingdom has accelerated in recent days as world leaders wonder why countries do not share what appears to be an excess of vaccine.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke Sunday with Ajit Doval, his counterpart in India. In a statement, NSC spokeswoman Emily Horne said the United States is committed to helping, but not yet with actual vaccine doses.
“The United States works 24 hours a day to deploy available resources and supplies,” Horne said.
Horne told the United States that he is making available the “specific raw material” needed for India to manufacture its Covidshield vaccine and will provide the country with medicines, test kits, fans and personal protective equipment as well. The United States will also help India with other materials and pay to help expand the manufacturing capacity of BioE, which manufactures the vaccine in India.
But U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-IL, who was born in India, has urged the Biden administration to release the excess vaccines.
“We are currently sitting on about 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the US stock, a stock we are not using and which we have already opened to fight COVID-19 in Mexico and Canada,” said member Krishnamoorthi of the House Special Subcommittee on Coronavirus pandemic, said in a statement on April 24.
The United States sent 4 million doses of vaccine to its northern and southern neighbors in March.
“To curb the spread of this virus internationally and protect public health and our international economy, we need to get these vaccines out now. I respectfully but firmly call on the Biden administration to release millions of doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to countries most affected by the spread of COVID-19, including India, Argentina and possibly others. “
Asked about the plan to share unused U.S. vaccines with other countries, Biden did not commit.
“We’re in the process of doing that,” he said Wednesday. “It simply came to our notice then. We are seeing what will be done with some vaccines that we do not use. We will make sure they are safe to be shipped. And we hope to be of some help and value to countries around the world. “