With the U.S. Food and Drug Administration set to review Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine this week for emergency use authorization and Moderna’s vaccine next week, we have passed the “if” phase of questions around the vaccine. Now, the focus turns to the “when and how” of distribution.
The U.S. expects to have enough vaccines for every American who wants one by the second quarter of 2021.
The United States expects to have enough COVID-19 vaccines for every American who wants one by the second quarter of 2021, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC News this past weekend. This is much-needed good news as daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States approach a 200,000 seven-day moving average, and deaths steadily increase. Last Thursday alone, a record 2,867 Americans lost their lives to the disease.
The U.K. has already granted emergency approval of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine. U.S. approval of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is expected this month, with the likely approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to follow in early 2021. But the question of distribution to a global population is complex and highly dependent upon production, logistics and participation at the federal, state and local levels.
What is important to keep in mind when vaccine developers, the media and government officials talk about vaccine quantities is that they often refer to “doses,” not full vaccine regimens. Of the four vaccines being tested in the United States, Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford all require two doses per person for a full vaccine cycle. As such, the figures below have been adjusted to show the number of people that can be vaccinated, as opposed to the number of doses that will be available.
While there are many caveats and unknowns that are difficult to illustrate, the first chart below shows the number of full vaccine regimens – and thus, the number of people that will be able to be vaccinated – based on countries’ executed and tentative contracts with the vaccine developers. The second chart shows vaccination capabilities based on doses already procured and also future potential doses.
We expect that there will be sufficient vaccines available for every American who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and many more available to be distributed globally.
While there will be more than enough vaccines to go around domestically and in most developed nations, in order for the United States to reach a full economic recovery there must also be a global recovery. With that in mind, it is the responsibility of world leaders to support international vaccination efforts, either through their own humanitarian efforts or through international coalitions such as COVAX (included in our second chart below), which are working toward global equitable access of a vaccine.
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