Global Vaccine Inequities Are Dangerous for Everyone

The U.S. needs to do more to get the world vaccinated against Covid-19

Craig Spencer MD MPH
Elemental
Published in
6 min readFeb 17, 2021

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Photo: Mufid Majnun/Unsplash

I’ve personally received more doses of a Covid-19 vaccine than 130 countries. While most of the world is still waiting for its first vaccine shipment, the United States currently administers 1.7 million doses per day, a substantial increase from the first weeks of our vaccine rollout when only health care workers like myself were vaccinated. But despite this improvement in speed, the rollout has been plagued by inequities, with populations most impacted by Covid facing the greatest hurdles. The inequities are even more staggering on the global stage.

The stark imbalance between the rapidly expanding rollouts in wealthy countries and the vaccine deserts in low- and middle-income countries is ethically problematic. It also increases the risk of a longer, more painful pandemic in the U.S., regardless of how fast we can vaccinate our population. Just as the U.S. needs to focus on an equitable and robust vaccine rollout domestically, we must help increase production and support the vaccine rollout worldwide.

To be fair, the U.S. isn’t completely absent in the global effort, even as it’s mostly focused on getting vaccines into the arms of Americans. One of the Biden administration’s first actions was to reaffirm U.S. membership in the World Health Organization, which leads the global vaccine push. The U.S. also committed to joining the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, a global procurement and distribution platform for Covid vaccines. But for humanitarian, public health, and financial reasons, we need to do much more to ensure vaccines are equitably distributed and accessible around the world.

With its financial prowess and ample contracts, the U.S. has gobbled up much of the initial vaccine supply, reducing availability and driving up the price worldwide. A recent White House announcement projects that we will have enough vaccines for 300 million Americans by the end of July. That’s great news if you live in the U.S. The reality for much of the world isn’t so great. In places like sub-Saharan Africa — where essential items like masks and other personal protective equipment are already in short supply because of price gouging and…

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Craig Spencer MD MPH
Elemental

ER doctor | Ebola Survivor | Public Health Professor at Brown University | A Few Other Things