Wealthy countries including UK caused millions of deaths by hoarding Covid-19 vaccines, study finds

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The study is the first of its kind to provide analytical evidence to support the global health message that vaccine distribution proportional to wealth may have detrimental consequences.

The equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the globe could have prevented millions of deaths worldwide, new research has suggested.

The findings from the University of Warwick found that a more equal distribution of the Covid vaccine worldwide could have prevented 0.3-1.5 billion infections and 1.3-3.7 million deaths worldwide by the end of 2021.

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The rollout of the vaccine was not equal across the world, with high-wealth countries benefiting from high numbers of doses per person, while low and middle-income countries had far fewer jabs.

By January 2022, the UK was giving out third booster doses, but some countries had vaccinated less than 2% of their population.

The equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the globe could have prevented millions of deaths worldwide, new research has suggestedThe equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the globe could have prevented millions of deaths worldwide, new research has suggested
The equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the globe could have prevented millions of deaths worldwide, new research has suggested | Kim Mogg/NationalWorld

The Warwick University study used mathematical models and computer simulations in the research. The team found that having a more equal distribution of vaccines across the world would have dramatically reduced infections, disease and death within less wealthy countries by providing earlier protection to the most vulnerable globally.

A more equal distribution of vaccinations would also have helped all countries in the long term by slowing the development and spread of new variants, the study said.

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This was the first study of its kind to provide analytical evidence to support the global health message that vaccine distribution proportional to wealth, rather than to need, may have detrimental consequences.

Research fellow Samuel Moore said: “Throughout the coronavirus pandemic our team was fortunate to be able to support the UK’s world leading vaccine program through modelling work presented to SPI-M-O, SAGE and JCVI. This paper however hopes to drive a shift in focus, to show the importance of considering the global as well as national perspective in the event of any future pandemic.

“Our simulation included data from 152 countries during 2021 - the findings were stark, showing that more equal distribution of the vaccine worldwide could have prevented 0.3-1.5 billion infections and 1.3-3.7 million deaths worldwide by the end of 2021.

“We hope the research will help to shape national and international policies, ensuring that we learn from the Covid-19 outbreak. Vaccine distribution should be determined via need, as opposed to wealth, and this will lead to benefits to every country around the world, minimising viral spread and the development of new variants.”

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

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