As good news continues to trickle in about coronavirus efforts in the US, including a reported deal by the Biden administration that snagged 200 million more doses for Americans, things aren't progressing as well in many parts of the world. In fact, UNICEF says that 130 countries have "yet to administer a single dose," per NPR, leaving 2.5 billion people out in the cold, and underscoring the large disparity gap between wealthy nations and poorer ones. Among the factors underlying the problem is a lack of enough vaccines to go around, as well as possible issues with current vaccine candidates in combating COVID-19 variants. South Africa, for example, has pivoted to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from the AstraZeneca variety—an easy-to-store, relatively inexpensive vaccine that low-resource countries were banking on using—because the latter was found to not be as effective in preventing COVID caused by the B.1.351 variant now prevalent in South Africa.
Drug manufacturer Moderna has already hawked most of its initial vaccine supply to richer countries, per the Washington Post, and other companies are following suit, leaving poorer countries desperate for any vaccine, even ones not as effective. The World Health Organization projects these struggling nations may not have wide access to the vaccine until late 2022 or even 2023, per USA Today. To help those countries out, the WHO has helped to launch COVAX, a vaccination program that's trying to ensure the world's poorer nations get 20% of their populations (mainly older people and health care workers) inoculated by year's end. "That way, you avoid what ... would be an unethical and unconscionable thing," a South African doctor tells the paper. And also a dangerous thing, Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome charity, tells Euronews: "Vaccinating a lot of people in a few countries, leaving the virus unchecked in large parts of the world, will lead to more variants emerging." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)