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Major countries have already started their vaccination drive against coronavirus. But a new study published on December 15 observed that at least a fifth of the world’s population may not have access to a COVID-19 vaccine until 2022. The reason is wealthier nations are reserving more than half of next year’s potential vaccine doses.

Wealthy nations- accounting for just 14 percent of the global population – have pre-ordered just over half of the vaccine doses expected to be produced by the 13 leading developers next year, researchers from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found.

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The research, published in the BMJ medical journal, looked at publicly available data and found that as of mid-November, reservations totalled 7.48 billion doses – equivalent to 3.76 billion immunisation courses, because most vaccines require two jabs. That is out of a total maximum projected manufacturing capacity of 5.96 billion courses by the end of 2021.

The study estimated that up to 40 percent of the vaccine courses from the leading manufacturers might be available for low- and middle-income countries, but said this would depend on how rich countries share what they have bought.

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The authors also suggested greater transparency and accountability related to the vaccination drive.

Many countries have joined a pooled purchasing mechanism COVAX — coordinated by the World Health Organisation, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and vaccines alliance Gavi — aiming to ensure that people across the world have access to a Covid-19 vaccine, regardless of wealth.

The initiative is hoping to have two billion doses available by the end of 2021. But neither the United States nor Russia has joined the programme.

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Another challenge the study noted was the requirement for two doses and the very low temperatures needed to store some of the vaccines added to the challenges for many countries.

Researchers said that Canada had ordered the equivalent of four doses per person, the United States has reserved just enough for one vaccine course per person, while countries like Indonesia have reserved less than one vaccine course for every two people.