A member of MSF’s mobile vaccination team is setting-up for the COVID-19 vaccination at a nursing home in Shayle (Mount Lebanon). Photograph by Tracy Makhlouf
Technical brief |

COVID-19 Vaccine Redistribution to Save Lives Now

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Photograph by Tracy Makhlouf

Millions of people have already died and millions more are at risk of dying from vaccine inequity if COVID-19 vaccine doses are not urgently redistributed. While high-income countries (HICs) hoard excess COVID-19 vaccines, with more than 870 million excess doses expected among just 10 HICs by the end of 2021, many healthcare workers and people in vulnerable groups in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and places where MSF works have not yet received their first doses.

The world is far from achieving World Health Organization (WHO) vaccination targets, and the COVAX Facility – created to support distribution of COVID-19 vaccines globally – is severely off course. Millions of doses could be tragically wasted if HICs do not immediately redistribute excess doses. G7 and European Union (EU) countries alone could waste 241 million doses by the end of 2021. Still, pharmaceutical companies continue to prioritise high-profit sales to HICs over a fairer distribution of vaccines. Meanwhile, COVID-19 anywhere is a problem everywhere. If the world is not urgently vaccinated, it is more likely that ‘variants of concern’ (VOC) will develop and spread globally. The public health, ethical, human rights and economic justifications for ensuring equitable and rapid access to COVID-19 vaccines that can save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19 are clear.

The fastest way to save lives right now is for HICs to stop hoarding COVID-19 vaccine doses, and immediately redistribute excess doses to LMICs via COVAX or regional bodies. If available vaccine doses are steadily redistributed, an estimated nearly one million deaths could be averted by mid-2022. Pharmaceutical companies must also prioritise their vaccine supplies for LMICs.