Coronavirus: Three billion could miss out on vaccine

Zoe Tidman
·2 min read
Nearly three billion could miss out on a coronavirus vaccine (Getty Images)
Nearly three billion could miss out on a coronavirus vaccine (Getty Images)

Three billion people could miss out on a coronavirus vaccine because of storage issues – with some of the poorest people on the planet most at risk of being left behind.

Experts have warned that among the problems facing vaccine distribution teams is that large parts of the world do not have the refrigeration capacities needed.

This includes most of Central Asia, much of India and southeast Asia, Latin America except for the largest countries, and all but a tiny corner of Africa.

The world’s most promising coronavirus vaccines would need non-stop sterile refrigeration from factory to syringe for them to stay potent and safe.

Despite efforts to help developing countries maintain the so-called vaccine “cold chain”, nearly three billion people in the world live in areas where temperature-controlled storage would be insufficient for an immunisation campaign to get coronavirus under control.

The vaccine cold chain hurdle is just the latest disparity of the pandemic weighted against the poor, who more often live and work in crowded conditions that allow the virus to spread, and whose health systems lack the resources carry out large-scale testing.

Medical freezers that go down to minus 70C are rare even in US and European hospitals.

For more than two-thirds of the world, however, the advanced technology is nowhere on the horizon, according to a study by German logistics company DHL.

DHL said some eventual Covid-19 vaccines may need stringent temperature requirements – up to -80C – given they have leapfrogged development phases.

“This poses novel logistics challenges to the existing medical supply chain that conventionally distributes vaccines at ~2–8C,” the company said.

Billions of people live in countries that do not have the necessary infrastructure to maintain the cold chain for either existing vaccines or more conventional coronavirus candidates, their study said.

The Covax Facility project, led by the World Health Organisation among others, was established this year to procure and equitably distribute vaccines between member nations.

The global project aims to deliver coronavirus vaccines to the world’s poorest people, and the ones most likely to end up in the Covax mix must be stored at 2-8C.

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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