So far the USA has donated 77 million vaccines doses to Covax, the WHO-backed Covid-jabs scheme for poorer countries. Britain has donated five million, France four million, other countries few.
China has donated over 20 million jabs, mostly direct country-to-country as part of gaining influence.
The figures look large. They are tokens on the scale of the six billion jabs given so far, the 30 million being given each day, and the billions needed in the next few months to stem the deaths (nearly 10,000 counted each day, officially 4.5 million counted so far, probably in fact 15 million).
The world vaccination rate is still only about 0.4 jabs per 100 people per day, and Africa’s rate, 0.1. A fast vaccination drive, like Cambodia’s currently, gets up to 1.0 per 100 per day.
The first answer is a drive to build vaccine production and distribution facilities. Big Pharma should be forced to hand over technical know-how free of cost, or, better, be expropriated outright and converted to a global public service.
At present Pfizer is selling its jabs at an 80% profit margin.
Even if we could win that political battle tomorrow, there would still be supply shortages for a while. Those shortages countermand rejoicing about the British government’s decision to plan single doses for 12-15 year olds in good health, and booster doses for older people in good health.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a committee of scientific advisers, reported that for healthy 12-15s “the health benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms”.
A 12-15 year old offered a jab would be wise to take it. It does not follow that it would be wise to organise a whole immediate jabs plan for the age group, with unavoidable implication of not doing some other things.
The JCVI passed the decision to the Chief Medical Officers, who decided that the additional benefit from jabs of fewer days off school was decisive.
But even that benefit is marginal and speculative compared to the life-saving benefit of jabs for elderly and frail people, and health workers, in poorer countries.
The government is also moving to third “booster” jabs for all over-50s. One scientific survey has found no clear advantage from “boosters” at this stage; another, from statistics in Israel, where “boosters” were first given, rates the advantage higher. I don’t know.
The government’s bias is to use the extra jabs as a cheaper and easier way of reducing the likely autumn-winter Covid surge than renewed restrictions (even of a limited sort, as between 17 May and 19 July and in some European countries now) and the social measures such asSolidarity has pressed for since early 2020:
• Full isolation pay for all
• Workers’ control of workplace safety (and, in particular, a right for workers to impose adequate ventilation)
• Rapid expansion of NHS capacity, including by bringing private hospitals into the NHS, and increase of NHS workers’ pay
• Make social care a publicly-owned service, with workers on NHS-level pay and conditions.
Worldwide, the best predictor of low Covid tolls (outside the countries able to close their borders rigidly, like New Zealand) is lower social inequality.