The global vaccine supply chain and why it matters

I want to talk about the most important story emerging in 2021, which should be receiving far more coverage than it currently is. This is the story of how we vaccinate the globe against COVID 19.

This is a three-pronged attack:

  1. Producing the actual vaccine doses:

This is not an easy process. According to analysis by airfinity, 10 billion doses will have been made available by the end of the year. For reference, ‘only’ 5 billion jabs of vaccines went into peoples arms during the whole of 2019, meaning we have tripled out supply in 12 months!

This is not a small feat. Each dose has come from a factory that is dealing with uncertain yields, contractual disputes, and issues that we do not even know about yet.

To make sure even more doses are produced, waiving IP rights such that any factory worldwide can produce jabs, and not a select few would be massively helpful. As would creating incentives for companies to produce quicker, such as paying them per vaccine such that they get a hefty profit margin, as the value of a single jab can reach up to 1000 dollars, far more than the cost of any vaccine.

2. Ensuring an equal supply of vaccines worldwide.

10 billion doses, for 5–6 billion people, would be enough for every adult on earth who wants a jab. However, this will not be the case unfortunately. Many countries will use doses that could go to lower income countries to give older people a third vaccination, with the UK currently planning that. Furthermore, other countries (particularly the USA) might stockpile doses that could be used for other nations, “just in case”.

As well, the supply of vaccines should go to countries who are currently grappling with surges of COVID. In an ideal world, at least 4 million of the 16 million jabs that were given on the 26th of March would have gone to Brazil, seeing as they had 3560 deaths that day, a quarter of the number that happened worldwide.

Australia has noticed this, and as such, in a smart move they requested that a 1 million shipment of their AZ doses go to the struggling Papua New Guinea.

I would hope that by December, the world will be able to mobilise quickly to protect against any country experiencing a surge.

3. The global variant picture.

This is a rapidly emerging story, and as such I will keep it short in case anything I say becomes hilariously out of date. I feel confident that no new variant that is significantly worse than the ones we currently have will arrive. Furthermore, the South African variant appears to be covered by the AZ jab, in lab studies using optimal dosing.

If we made sure that the new generation of jabs coming out in December are protective against the crucial mutations, then I feel like the variant picture will look milder.

Overall, I think by October, most of the western world will have protection against covid from first generation vaccines, with Africa lagging behind. Then, by March 2022, about a year from now, we should be in a position where westerners have had 2–3 jabs, and everyone in lower income countries at risk will have that ability as well, providing the WHO and USA start to mobilise properly.

Please god.

I talk about maths and covid and stuff